Today, China has begun a full-scale pilot of its digital yuan on the entire Beijing subway system and a single Suzhou metro line. Applying the digital currency to a city-wide public transport network marks a major step forward for the country’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) efforts.
The decision to begin trialing the digital RMB on metro systems will be a good test of the digital currency’s current robustness and usability. Metro payment is typically a low-value, high-frequency payment application scenario, covering a large number of people.
In Beijing, the service is currently only available to passengers who bank with ICBC, which is a state-owned bank. Within their ICBC wallet, users can open a sub-wallet with the Yitongxing app, Beijing’s official city transit app.
The Beijing Municipal Transportation Commission hopes that the digital yuan payment service will provide passengers with diversified payment method options, faster journey times and a smoother user experience.
Ride payments work the same in Suzhou, where wallet users can bind the metro app to a digital yuan wallet. From there, passengers pay for rides through scanning QR codes. Another option for payment is through using vending machines. All machines on Line 5 of Suzhou’s metro have been replaced in order to support scan code payment for ticket purchases.
Since the second half of 2020, the Chinese central bank has already begun large-scale testing of its CBDC. Digital yuan has been handed out in the form of red envelopes and lotteries in major cities across China to promote usage of the currency.
Meanwhile, Chinese banks have also turned their focus toward the usage of digital renminbi in senior care communities. The digital yuan was trialed at a senior care facility in Chengdu earlier this month.