If you’ve been in the Bitcoin market for any period of time, you likely know that China has long been a hub for crypto assets as a whole.
Yes, the trading of BTC and other cryptocurrencies is vehemently banned and restricted, but the Beijing government has continued to maintain heavy involvement in the broader space, accentuated by a booming Bitcoin mining scene and Chairman Xi Jinping’s blockchain efforts.
Just today, local reports revealed that the Agricultural Bank of China — one of the nation’s biggest commercial banks, which is coincidentally state-owned — has begun to test a national digital currency project.
China finally rolling out its national crypto project
It’s commonly known in crypto spheres that the People’s Bank of China — the country’s equivalent to the Federal Reserve, a central bank — has been working on its own cryptocurrency project for a while now. The central bank has shared job offerings asking for engineers to work on this project for years.
But only now is it coming to fruition, at least according to the Chinese crypto community.
According to a Mar. 14 report from Chinese blockchain media site BlockBeats, images of a new application by the Agricultural Bank of China have begun to circulate China’s crypto scene through WeChat.
The images depict a beta version of an application branded with the logos of the Agricultural Bank of China. Although the images have not been fully translated, the term “DC” (in English) is front-and-center on the application’s home screen, which coincides with the name many have given China’s digital yuan project: Digital Currency Electronic Payment, or DC/EP.
According to Matthew Graham, the CEO of Sino Global Capital and a close follower of the crypto industry, the application can actually be downloaded by those whitelisted by the government. Graham added that the application is currently for those in Shenzhen, China’s Silicon Valley, and Xiongan, Chengdu, and Suzhou.
Some may question the veracity of the project, but it has been known for months now that China’s digital currency project was on the verge of launching, with December reports from Caijing suggesting a beta or pilot test of the DC/EP would take place at the start of 2020. The outbreak of COVID-19 presumably delayed those plans until now.
Beijing simultaneously signals support for blockchain
While potentially a coincidence, the same day these screenshots started to leak, it was revealed that the Beijing government has just finished the creation of a consortium of 15 member organizations working on blockchain.
A notice from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the government indicates that these member organizations include the People’s Bank of China, Tencent, and Baidu, the two of which are China’s equivalent of Facebook and Google, respectively. (As a pertinent aside, it has been suggested that Tencent and Baidu are closely involved in the rollout of DCEP as their products are on the devices of a majority of Chinese citizens.)
The council will be working together to devise standards and plans for China’s push towards the widespread adoption of blockchain and distributed ledger technology.
The timing couldn’t have been better
According to the Bank of International Settlements — the so-called “central bank of central banks” — the timing of this likely beta launch could not be any better.
The BIS wrote in a bulletin published Apr. 3rd that the outbreak of the COVID-19 across the world has accelerated the public’s distaste for cash, which was already taking place as digital systems like WeChat Pay (China) and Google Pay (Western world) have started to crop up:
“Resilient and accessible central bank operated payment infrastructures could quickly become more prominent, including retail central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).The pandemic may hence put calls for CBDCs into sharper focus, highlighting the value of having access to diverse means of payments, and the need for any means of payments to be resilient against a broad range of threats.”