“For now, we do not have any plan for using e-CNY in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries yet,” China’s central bank chief said at the 2021 G30 International Banking Seminar, regarding the electronic yuan (e-CNY), the world’s first major central bank digital currency that is being slowly rolled out in China. Meanwhile, authorities are urging global fast food chain McDonald’s to accept digital renminbi (e-RMB) payments across China for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Fast facts

  • In a transcript released by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) on Wednesday, the governor of China’s central bank, Yi Gang, said in a Q&A session the digital yuan is currently meant for domestic retail payments, while cross-border e-CNY transactions will require further discussion on legal issues such as anti-money laundering and customer diligence. China’s central bank hopes to cooperate with various central banks, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) to discuss it. But now there is no plan to promote the use of digital renminbi in the BRI countries, he said.
  • Despite the official denial, an expert from the Export-Import Bank of China, a Chinese policy bank, said the e-CNY can be used overseas. With the permission of the local central bank, foreigners can open an electronic RMB wallet at a local banking financial institution authorized by the People’s Bank of China.
  • China may also have plans to place cross-border stablecoins. A blockchain company, Conflux, favored by the government, said in  September it is piloting an offshore RMB stablecoin in a free trade zone in Shanghai, in a move to boost cross-border payments.
  • China’s promotion of the e-currency is in full swing in the mainland, with the Winter Olympics in February expected to be its first major test. McDonald’s China is being urged to adopt e-CNY at all of its branches nationwide, according to a report. Some 270 McDonald’s Shanghai branches already accept digital yuan as payments, and authorities hope to expand that to nationwide as part of the Winter Olympics e-CNY pilot program.
  • The Chinese authorities attach great importance to the Winter Olympics trial, since tens of thousands of athletes from all over the world could open their digital renminbi wallets in Beijing as the first massive test of international use of Chinese retailing by CBDC. 
  • The e-CNY portal has been visible at Winter Olympic venues. In September, the central bank stated that 355,000 Winter Olympic payment scenarios have been successfully implemented, covering various situations such as transportation, accommodation, catering and shopping. Last month, Fan Yifei, the deputy governor of the Chinese central bank, said the Winter Olympics e-CNY rollout had entered the “sprint stage” as it approached the finish line.