China Broadens Digital Currency Pilot Program

BEIJING--China's commerce ministry unveiled a pilot program to use a digital currency across major cities, expanding on an initiative to launch the first electronic payment system by a major central bank.

The digital currency pilot program, part of the government's sweeping plan to promote the service sector, covers Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei province, the Yangtze River Delta and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement released Friday.

Cities in the country's vast middle and western regions will also try out the digital currency if they are ready for it, the ministry said. The commerce ministry said the efforts, led by the central bank, will be expanded to other parts of the country if deemed appropriate.

Earlier this year, the central bank said it launched the digital currency in Shenzhen, Suzhou, Chengdu and Xiong'an, a satellite city of Beijing, on a trial basis, in part to prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The People's Bank of China has said that shifting to a government-run digital payment system will help combat money laundering, gambling and terror financing. The intention is to replace some of China's monetary base, or cash in circulation, but it won't replace other parts of the country's money supply, the central bank said.

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