One of China’s big six state-owned banks has provided the world with a brief glimpse of what wallets for China’s digital renminbi are set to look like following official deployment, with experts pointing to the imminent launch of large-scale trials.
According to domestic media reports on 29 August the official app for China Construction Bank (CCB) indicated that it had launched a digital currency wallet, with the addition of two menus for “digital wallet top-ups (数字钱包充值) and “digital currency” (“数字货币).
The new features also permitted users to directly link their bank accounts to the digital currency wallet on their apps.
The features were only present for less than a day, however, with the CCB app currently indicating that “this function is temporarily not officially available externally for service – please wait” (该功能暂未正式对外提供服务，敬请期待).
CCB said that it had launched functional testing of new features on its mobile app on the evening of 28 August, and that this testing has already concluded.
Chen Wenjun (陈文君), an expert on the digital economy from Fudan University, said to Beijing Business Today that CCB’s online testing of a digital currency wallet means that technical preparations are basically complete, and the large scale-testing phase will soon be launched.
“CCB is a big state-owned bank, and a necessary intermediary for circulation of money,” said Chen. “Bringing digital currency online was a trial operation, and in a trial operation there can be many details that emerge and require re-consideration.
“For this reason it’s very normal for debugging to be performed following the temporary suspension of testing.”
According to sources the digital currency wallet is at present only fully available in certain trial zones where China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) is being tested.
One source who is currently using the CCB digital renminbi wallet as part of trials said that the app has total of nine service functions including “deposit,” “transfers,” “transaction details,” “linkage to accounts,” “credit card payments” and “wallet cancellation.”
China first commenced research into the development of a CBDC in 2014, with People’s Bank of China (PBOC) officials alluding to the “imminent” release of a statutory digital currency at a press conference in August 2019.
PBOC announced at the end of April 2020 that it had commenced internal testing of the DC/EP at locations including Shenzhen, Suzhou, Xiong’an New District and Chengdu, as well as at sites for the Winter Olympics.
In early August reports emerged indicating that at least four of the big six state-owned banks had commenced testing of digital renminbi wallets, including Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), ICBC, Bank of China (BOC) and CCB.