WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
CBDC’s let governments cut fraud, track transactions, and increases financial surveillance, and China is at the forefront of deploying the technology.
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As the EU and others gingerly roll out their Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) plans public sector employees in the Chinese city of Changshu will start receiving their salaries in CBDC next month, as China’s rollout of the financial technology continues apace.
The new initiative will impact employees like doctors, teachers, and journalists, according to the South China Morning Post. Located less than 100 miles from Shanghai, Changshu City is home to more than 1.5 million residents.
The notice came from the city’s financial authorities, according to a local media report. Described as a “Notice on the Implementation of Full Salary Digital Renminbi Issuance,” the shift will be effective starting in May.
The Future of Banking, Money, and Payments, by keynote Matthew Griffin
As of this month, China’s CBDC rollout has expanded to 26 different regions in 17 of 23 provinces, the report states. Not far from Changshu City, Taicang was the first location with a public institution to fully offer wages in digital yuan, a milestone reached in July last year.
Another report noted that Changshu City has previously promoted the digital yuan’s use in certain situations, such as paying for public transport, medical expenses, groceries, and utilities like gas and water.
Changshu City falls within the jurisdiction of China’s Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. The city of Suzhou was one of China’s initial testing grounds for its pilot of the yuan in 2020, as well as Shenzhen, Xiongan, and Chengdu.
In December of that year, citizens of Suzhou participated in a CBDC airdrop, where $3 million worth of digital yuan was distributed among 10,000 residents.
CBDCs resemble stablecoins because they are digital tokens pegged to the price of a sovereign currency such as the US dollar or Chinese yuan. However, instead of being issued by commercial entities on decentralized networks, CBDCs are issued and controlled by a country’s government or central bank.
The shift comes amid growing chatter in the US about the potential dangers of a CBDC, which recently spread to both sides of the political aisle. Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis and Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have slammed the technology as prone to abuse and an affront to Americans’ financial privacy rights – the latter of which the Chinese government has no problems with as they look to use it to monitor all and every aspects of their economy and citizens financial transactions in real time.
Developments in China overlap with Hong Kong’s re-emergence as a potential place for digital asset actors to do business, especially amid a regulatory crackdown on crypto in the US that some politicians have warned will push the industry abroad.
While only 11 countries, including the Bahamas, have fully launched a CBDC, the technology has a growing foothold across the globe, according to the Atlantic Council’s CBDC tracker. One hundred countries are piloting, researching, or developing the technology today, and it’s only a matter of when not if you’ll be using one.
But, if you’re in China then that date could be next month, and if you’re in the US then it could very well be decades as China continues to push ahead not just developing new technologies but implementing them at scale as well as it fights the US for global cultural, economic, and tech dominance, and as the US continues to see stagnation and in fighting in the Chambers.