Digital yuan with red background

Digital yuan app removes ‘pilot’ from description, fueling speculation for production

After nearly four years of experiments, it appears that China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) is moving towards a full-scale rollout following a change in terminology for the mobile application.

In early June, mobile app users observed the term “pilot” dropped from its name across app stores in China, fueling speculation for a commercial release. Pundits are predicting a formal issuance of the digital yuan following the name change, but conservative estimates point to a release in mid-2025.

Despite the speculations, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has yet to make a formal announcement about a mainstream rollout of the CBDC, but local authorities have waded in to provide clarification on the matter.

A statement attributed to the Mobile Payment Network News noted that dropping the term “pilot” from the CBDC project is only an attempt to meet the filing requirements of national authorities. According to the statement, eliminating the word “has no other extended meaning,” and measured studies will continue until the PBoC determines a date for a full-scale rollout.

The statement cites a notice from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology from 2023, urging app developers in Mainland China to adhere to the registration requirements from local authorities.

There appears to be a common denominator across local authorities with the rules specifying a strict consistency in the app names on the app stores and mobile devices. An attempt to comply with the new listing rule will see the CBDC uniformly bear “Digital RMB” across all platforms.

“Therefore, the removal of ‘pilot version’ from the name of the digital renminbi app this time will not change the existing digital renminbi pilot policy,” read the statement.

However, several analysts have poked holes in the statement on the grounds that there is no reason to drop the term “pilot” if the PBoC is eyeing an extension of the experimentation period.

Since the start of the pilots, the PBoC has tested the viability of the digital yuan in several areas, including transportation, retail, securities, and hospitality industries, with promising results.

Incentives to hasten a rollout

Chinese authorities have several reasons for hastening the commercial launch of the CBDC after a four-year pilot that has seen the digital yuan permeate nearly every facet of economic life in Mainland China.

For starters, there is a need to remove the influence of the dollar with BRICS nations probing the use of CBDCs to power cross-border transactions. With the mCBDC project inching toward a rollout, participating countries could launch their local CBDCs to improve the state of cross-border transactions in their jurisdictions.

China is seeking to provide a measure of competition to private payment firms like Alipay and WeChat Pay by launching and promoting the digital yuan to seize a portion of the market.

To learn more about central bank digital currencies and some of the design decisions that need to be considered when creating and launching it, read nChain’s CBDC playbook.

Watch: Finding ways to use CBDC outside of digital currencies

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