China doles out millions in digital yuan in bid to boost adoption: Report

Millions of dollars worth of China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) has been handed out across the country over the Lunar New Year period in a bid to boost its takeup.

According to a Feb. 6 report in the Global Times, an English-language outlet of the state-ruPeople’s Daily newspaper, around 200 “activities” for the e-CNY were launched across the country during the holiday period.

These activities aimed to “promote consumption” — the first time the government has done so since recently relaxing COVID-19 restrictions.

Multiple cities reportedly gave away over 180 million yuan ($26.5 million) worth of the CBDC in programs such as subsidies and consumption coupons.

In one example cited by the outlet, the Shenzhen local government handed out over 100 million yuan ($14.7 million) worth of e-CNY to subsidize the city’s catering industry.

A QR code (blurred) for paying with digital yuan is displayed at a Chinese convenience store, users can scan the code and use e-CNY to pay for goods. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A Feb. 1 China Daily report said Hangzhou issued each resident an 80 yuan ($12) e-CNY voucher on Jan. 16. The total giveaway cost the city around 4 million yuan, or $590,000.

Some of these initiatives proved to be very popular among residents.

Citing data from the e-commerce platform Meituan, the Global Times report stated that e-CNY given away by the Hangzhou city government for the New Year celebrations was taken up by residents within nine seconds.

The last few months has seen the government enact other targets and features to boost the usage of the CBDC.

On Feb. 1, senior ruling party officials in the city of Suzhous set a tentative key performance indicator for the end of 2023 of having 2 trillion yuan ($300 billion) worth of e-CNY transactions in the city.

The target is ambitious considering cumulative e-CNY transactions only crossed 100 billion yuan ($14 billion) in October, two years after the CBDC’s launch.

In a bid to attract new users, in late December last year, the e-CNY wallet app introduced the ability to send “red packets” called hongbao in China, which is used for gifting money around the holidays.

The wallet app als received an update in early January allowing users to make contactless payments using Android phones — even if their device is without internet or power.

In December, a former Chinese central banker called the results of the e-CNY trials “not ideal,” and admitted, “usage has been low, highly inactive.”

Main, News