China wants centralised digital currency after bitcoin crackdown

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As Facebook readies to launch its answer to bitcoin, China is set to introduce its own digital currency — one that could allow the government and the central bank to see what people spend their money on, according to analysts.

Far from the libertarian ideals of cryptocurrencies, whose anonymity allows users to buy and sell without leaving a digital trail, China’s mooted e-cash system will be tightly regulated, experts say, and run by the People’s Bank of China, the central bank.

It “would give the PBoC greater insight into transactions throughout the country,” analysts at Beijing-based research firm Trivium China said in a note.

In late September, central bank governor Yi Gang said China’s new currency may be associated with existing electronic payment systems, such as the popular WeChat and AliPay phone apps, which are widespread and allow yuan transactions via bank accounts.

While he gave no timetable, Chinese media are putting their money on a November 11 launch to coincide with “Singles Day” — a massive, annual online sales event.

For China, a home-grown system of electronic cash controlled by the central bank offers the convenience that consumers want with the control that authorities crave.

The People’s Bank of China, must “stay relevant in an age of declining usage of paper currency,” said Song.

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