Today, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) announced the country's digital currency, e-CNY, has surpassed more than $5.3 billion (34.5 billion yuan) in transactions amid increased restrictions on the mining and usage of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
That amount was spread across more than 70.7 million transactions, PBOC said, between the 20.8 million individuals and 3.5 million businesses with e-CNY wallets. Those numbers might seem low compared to China's population of 1.4 billion people, but the digital currency is still being tested ahead of its official debut.
"So far," PBOC said on its English language website, "as the top-level design, function development, and system testing has been basically completed, the PBOC has initiated pilot programs in some representative regions while making sure the pilots run in a steady, safe, managed, innovative and practical manner."
The official timeline states that PBOC started work on e-CNY in 2014, formed the Digital Currency Institute to develop the first version of the coin in 2016, received the State Council's approval to start testing the digital currency with commercial partners in 2017, and then started public tests throughout the country in 2019.
That puts the development of e-CNY well ahead of a similar digital currency related to the U.S. Dollar. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said the agency plans to publish a report on those efforts—as well as stablecoins and cryptocurrencies—in September. Meanwhile, e-CNY has been used in tens of millions of transactions.
The continued development of e-CNY also helps explain the stricter regulations on cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which PBOC criticized in June for enabling criminal activity, infringing "on the property safety of the people," and disrupting "the normal economic and financial order." They also compete with the official digital currency.
PBOC said in the white paper published today that e-CNY is currently being tested in 11 cities and provinces throughout China. Bloomberg reported that it "will explore cross-border trials based on overseas needs," too, and has vowed to "respect other countries’ monetary sovereignty in the process." (Not that it would say otherwise.)