Ant Group Has Been Working With China’s Central Bank on Its CBDC Since 2017: Report

The Alibaba-affiliated company disclosed the information over the weekend at the Digital China Summit in Fuzhou.

Apr 26, 2021 at 11:55 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:46 p.m. UTC

Ant Group, the fintech affiliate of Alibaba Group, has revealed the extent of its work with the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) on the country’s central bank digital currency (CBDC).

  • The company has been working on the project since 2017, according to a report by South China Morning Post, also owned by Alibaba.
  • Information revealed at the Digital China Summit in Fuzhou over the weekend showed Ant-backed online bank MYbank became one of the intermediaries to distribute the digital yuan in late 2017.
  • In June 2019, China’s digital currency institute began to use Ant’s mobile app development platform to develop the app consumers will use to send and receive payments using the CBDC.
  • Ant Group subsequently started to roll out the digital yuan across China at the start of 2021 following trials in late 2020.
  • The company's touting of its close ties with the PBOC comes in the wake of Chinese authorities forcing the company to suspend its expected initial public offering in November 2020 and later to restructure its operations to bring it more under the supervision of the nation’s regulator.
  • These actions came after Alibaba founder Jack Ma criticized China’s financial system and its state-dominated banking sector at a Shanghai event last October.
  • Ant’s boasting of its involvement in the digital yuan project comes as six state banks are promoting the use of the CBDC as an alternative to Alipay and WeChat Pay to scupper the duopoly in the country’s payments space, according to analysis by Reuters.
  • Meanwhile, Tencent also disclosed via posters at the event that the video game and social media giant has been involved in digital currency tests since February 2018.
  • A spokesperson for the company told the SCMP, “Tencent has been taking part in the PBOC’s e-CNY project from the start and will continue to carry out pilot trials in accordance with the guidance of the PBOC.”
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