A central bank-issued digital currency (CBDC) released by the People's Bank of China should incorporate elements of cryptocurrencies, according to Yao Qian, who spearheads the central bank's research in this area.
In his latest opinion piece, published by China business media outlet Yicai on Tuesday, Yao – who is director of the central bank's Digital Currency Research Lab – further explained his vision regarding a technological approach towards the development of a CBDC.
Such features – including possible steps to boost privacy in transactions – would help give a future currency more of a competitive edge, he wrote, while acknowledging that the PBoC would likely centralize its issuance.
"At the current phase, CBDC may mainly focus on digitalizing the fiat currency. But it's inevitable for CBDC to integrate more features in the future. An approach that just rigidly mimics and digitalizes the fiat currency may undermine the competitive edge of CBDC in the long term."
The lab director's comments offer a new window into the thinking within China's central bank on this issue. His commentary follows a January op-ed by Fan Yifei, the vice governor of the PBoC, which specifically distinguished CBDC from decentralized cryptocurrencies.
And yet Yao argues in his opinion that, in the long-run, a Chinese CBDC should nonetheless include some key features of cryptocurrency.
For example, he outlines a scenario in which a cryptocurrency wallet would be introduced to customer accounts among existing commercial banks which would utilize a dual-key mechanism maintained by both customers and banks – similar to the concept of public and private keys used in most cryptocurrencies.
In addition, Yao also said that a certain degree of anonymity can be adopted by a Chinese CBDC, arguing that the central bank should consider the advantage of a more private transaction environment for better user experience and privacy protection.
"[An] anonymous front-end with [a] real name back-end," Yao wrote.
That line of thinking is perhaps shared by Fan, who previously argued in his op-ed that while a CBDC can be anonymous from the perspective of consumer-to-consumer payments, transparency would be vital within the central bank's issuance system.
Image of Yao Qian via CoinDesk's archive.