Third largest Chinese bank launches CBDC test app for select users

The Agricultural Bank of China has offered the first real insight into how the upcoming central bank digital currency will work with the launch of a test app. The bank, considered to be the third largest in the world, only allows whitelisted users to access the app, suggesting it’s in the testing phase.

News of the test app started making rounds on WeChat, with a web link redirecting users to download the bank’s new payments app. This link has since then been taken down. Others took to Twitter to share the news, including Mo Li, the head of marketing at HashKey Hub, a digital asset management platform.

The app, which is available for both iOS and Android users, shows the basic features that the people will access, including a digital currency exchange, payments via QR codes, receiving and sending payments, transaction tracking and wallet management. It’s most unexpected feature is the ability to send funds offline simply by touching the recipient’s phone.

The state-owned bank is currently only allowing a few select users to register for the app. Other users who attempt to register get a “not in the white list” message. The registration process also shows that the initial registration will only be available to users in four Chinese cities—Suzhou, Shenzhen, Xiong’An and Chengdu.

The app comes just weeks after Alipay, China’s largest digital payments company, went on a patent spree, with the patents all relating to the CBDC. The patents revealed more details about the digital currency, including the sequencing of the users into different groups depending on behavior and identity data. The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) will reportedly launch different types of wallets for each group.

As expected, the PBoC will have strict control over the currency. According to one Alipay patent, the watchdog will provide the banks and payment firms with a control device which will allow them to restrict accounts suspected of illicit activities.

Alipay will be one of the fintech firms that the PBoC will rely on to distribute the digital yuan. Others include Tencent, the operator of WeChatPay as well as some of the largest commercial banks.

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