Olympics-Digital Chinese Currency Makes Muted Games Debut | Technology News

Winnie Zhou and Ilse Filks

ZHANGJAKOU, CHINA (Reuters) – China’s goal to make the Olympic sensation its digital currency, thwarted by a decision to exclude foreign spectators caused by COVID-19, has been picked up by an audience of locals who can’t use their regular digital payments. applications.

Only three forms of payment are available at Olympic venues: the Chinese yuan, its digital version known as e-CNY, and Visa cards, whose cards are not widely used in China.

WeChat Pay from Tencent and Alipay from Alibaba, which dominate non-cash payments in China, are generally not accepted within a “closed loop” that separates competitors and staff from the public. Tickets for the Games were not sold, which means that there are few people at the events.

“I’ve heard of the digital yuan before, but didn’t plan to use it until I knew,” said Li Hongyang, a 20-year-old volunteer student who said she brought only a phone, not realizing she wouldn’t be able to use it. its regular payment programs.

While Li is typical of Chinese participants, foreigners at the Games – the first from outside the country to use the new digital yuan – seem to be largely unaware of it.

A number of servers at food and beverage kiosks said that while Chinese customers mostly used e-CNY for shopping, foreigners mostly enjoy cash or Visa, whose Olympic sponsorship gives them exclusive rights to international payments.

In one 30-minute period, 11 customers visited a coffee shop in Genting Snow Park, where snowboarding and freestyle competitions were held. Three Chinese customers paid through digital yuan programs to buy drinks and snacks, while one foreigner used cash and other foreigners paid Visa.

Foreign guests interviewed informally in the Games cycle generally said they did not notice an alternative payment option.

A senior Chinese central bank official said this week that about 2 million yuan ($ 316,000) in daily payments at the Beijing Winter Games were made via e-CNY.

Digital currency users either download an app for their phone or receive a specially designed rubber bracelet or payment card that looks like a credit card without a magnetic stripe or chip. In ATMs within the cycle managed by the State Bank of China, 18 currencies can be converted into electronic yuan or yuan banknotes.

“It seems that all foreign users are using hardware wallets,” said Mu Changchun, director general of the Central Bank’s Digital Currency Research Institute, at a webinar hosted by the Atlantic Council, citing e-CNY payment cards at the Games.

“Software wallets are mostly used by domestic users.”

(1 dollar = 6.3348 Chinese yuan)

(Report by Winnie Zhou and Eels Filks; additional reports by Mark Jones in London, edited by Tony Monroe and Ed Osmond)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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