China’s sovereign digital currency, the e-CNY, is on track to achieve greater exposure in more cities, as leading domestic mobile payments providers Alipay and WeChat Pay installed new features to support its wider roll-out. Alipay, operated by Ant Group, said its app has added a button that enables users to search for and download the official e-CNY wallet on its platform. By opening an account using the same phone number associated with Alipay, users can make purchases with e-CNY on the app. It also said that nearly six million digital yuan wallets have been pushed to merchants on Alipay’s platform, a process that enables a new e-CNY user to initiate that payment option. Alipay, which has about 900 million users, activated the payment option last year. Ant is the fintech affiliate of Alibaba Group.
WeChat Pay, operated by Tencent Holdings, last month set up a similar e-CNY wallet function on its app, about three months after it adopted digital yuan as a payment option. The mobile payments platform, part of the WeChat app, had about 900 million users at the end of December.
Alipay and WeChat Pay’s moves reflect Big Tech companies’ commitment to help promote the country’s digital money. In January, on-demand services provider Meituan allowed more than 200 types of offline merchants, including restaurants, grocery stores and hotels, to accept e-CNY payments, while JD.com earlier made e-CNY payment an option for purchases made on its platform. That support has helped the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) to broaden the adoption of the sovereign digital currency ahead of other major central banks, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan. China became the first major economy to explore its own central bank digital currency in 2014, but the government has yet to provide a timetable for the nationwide launch.
There were 261 million e-CNY users at the end of 2021, nearly double the number recorded last October, according to the latest data from the PBOC. The digital yuan has been available for use in about 20 cities designated for e-CNY trials, the South China Morning Post reports.