How China’s Digital Currency Could Challenge the Dollar

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Every morning, Mei Yi waves goodbye to his wife and 3-year-old son and sets off for his finance job in central Beijing, riding into town by public bike share. Like most urban Chinese, the 37-year-old has long abandoned cash and instead pays for his commute—and a lunchtime bite from a convenience store in his office building—with a flash of a QR code on his smartphone screen.

In recent weeks, however, Mei has jettisoned the Alipay mobile-payment app run by Ant Group, an affiliate of e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, for a digital wallet of renminbi (RMB), as China’s currency is called. The wallet is issued as a pilot project by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the country’s central bank. “It’s quite convenient to use, but there are no outstanding features to replace mainstream payment systems such as Alipay,” shrugs Mei. “For individuals, at least, any advantages aren’t that obvious.”

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