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Digital yuan boosts Chinese New Year consumption

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-01-30 16:10

A staff member demonstrates the payment with China's digital yuan, or the e-CNY, during the first Global Digital Trade Expo in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province, Dec 12, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

TIANJIN -- On the first day of the Year of the Rabbit, Li, a citizen of North China's Tianjin municipality, was preparing a red packet for her daughter, a monetary gift traditionally given by the elderly to the younger generation during the Spring Festival.

Instead of withdrawing cash from a bank and putting it in a red envelope, this year, she chose to use the E-CNY mobile application, passing on her blessing with digital fiat currency.

This virtual red packet of 200 yuan ($30) has a lively cover with not only lovely animated images on it but also a message carefully selected by the mother: Try not to be bothered. "Red packet of digital yuan is easy for elderly like me to operate and interesting enough to draw youngsters' attention," said Li.

Issued by the People's Bank of China, China's central bank, digital yuan is positioned as a legal tender, designed to be treated as M0, meaning cash in circulation, such as coins and banknotes. At present, 17 provincial-level regions in China have piloted the use of digital yuan.

During the weeklong Spring Festival holiday, which began on Jan 21 this year, a large number of red packets of digital yuan have also been distributed to residents across the country to stimulate the consumer market. Cities including Beijing, the capital, Hangzhou in the east, and Shenzhen in the south, have issued e-CNY coupons.

Starting from Jan 16, Hangzhou has issued digital yuan vouchers worth 4 million yuan to people in the city, each with a face value of 80 yuan.

The Tianjin branch of China Construction Bank has launched a digital yuan promotion activity, offering discounts of up to 50 percent to those who spend the digital yuan on watching movies, shopping, or catering consumption during the Spring Festival.

Shenzhen distributed 2 million red packets of digital yuan for catering consumption in mid-January, with a total value of 100 million yuan. By drawing lots, citizens could receive coupons ranging from 28 yuan to 666 yuan. The numbers of six and eight both symbolize good luck in Chinese culture.

Qiu Qiu (pseudonym) from Shenzhen had a free KFC meal with a digital yuan coupon with a face value of 28 yuan. "Several friends of mine have drawn red packets of digital yuan, and everyone is discussing how to get better discounts using them."

Gao Nan, a professor at Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, believes that the integration of digital yuan and the Chinese New Year could accelerate the public's cognition and promotion of e-CNY.

"Technological innovation is also injecting more new impetus into traditional festivals," Gao said.

The amount of digital yuan in circulation reached 13.61 billion yuan by the end of 2022, data from the PBOC showed, as it called for efforts to facilitate interconnectivity between the digital yuan system and traditional e-payment tools to make it more convenient for customers to use digital currency.

As of late January, more than 90 internet platforms that gather rich consumption scenes have also opened up to embrace digital currency, such as JD.COM, Taobao, and Meituan.

According to data from Meituan, more than 16 million sub-wallets of digital currency were pushed to the Meituan App, generating nearly 40 million digital yuan trading orders.

Digital currency is an important part of the digital financial system, said Dong Ximiao, chief researcher with Merchants Union Consumer Finance Company Limited. "Digital yuan helps boost residents' willingness to consume and promote consumption growth," he added.

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