State-owned bank develops app to test China’s official digital currency
Published: Apr 15, 2020 05:58 PM

A pedestrian walks past a branch of Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) in Yichang, Central China's Hubei Province in August 2013. File photo: IC

China is taking another major step toward issuing its official digital currency, as Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), one of the big four state-owned banks, has launched an app to test the currency that's undergoing trials in four cities, an insider confirmed to the Global Times on Wednesday.

According to widely circulated screenshots of the app, it supports functions such as digital asset exchange, digital wallet management and digital currency transaction record queries, among other basic functions such as payments via a QR code. 

It converts the yuan to the digital currency at a 1:1 ratio.  

The screenshots showed that the tests are being conducted in Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province, Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, Suzhou in East China's Jiangsu Province and Xiong'an New Area in North China's Hebei Province. 

However, the app now only allows whitelisted users to register. The download page of the app could no longer be found as of press time on Wednesday.

Media reports said the pilot scenarios also include transportation, education, medical treatment and consumption, crucial functions for the circulation of the currency.

The insider who confirmed ABC's app test to the Global Times said other major state-owned banks are also involved.

China has been conducting trials of the digital currency in certain cities and the move related to the app is a significant step in terms of the distribution of DC/EP, another source close to the matter told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The second source said that in addition to tests by the four banks, domestic technology companies such as Alibaba and Tencent are conducting certain technological tests for DC/EP.

"The leaked app interface is still very rough and does not offer many functions yet," Cao Yin, a blockchain insider, told the Global Times on Wednesday, indicating that the tests might have to go for some time before the official launch of the digital currency.

Earlier this year, China's central bank said the digital currency was "progressing smoothly" and its "top-level" design was complete. Industry analysts have indicated that China is likely to be the first country in the world to launch a sovereign digital currency.

As part of the move to introduce a digital currency, China launched a National Blockchain and Distributed Accounting Technology Standardization Technical Committee on Sunday, in an effort to set a national standard for blockchain.

Technology giants including Huawei, Tencent, Baidu, Ant Financial and are among the companies and academic institutions on the committee.

China's central government has vowed to seize the opportunity and drive technological innovation across all sectors using blockchain technology.