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McDonald’s is reportedly part of China’s digital currency trial

CNBC | Evelyn Cheng | Apr 24, 202

China trials digital currency - McDonald’s is reportedly part of China’s digital currency trialKey Points

  • China has rolled out a digital currency trial in Xiong’an, an area southwest of Beijing in the Hebei province, according to state-backed media reports.
  • McDonald’s and Subway are reportedly two American firms among 19 companies participating in the trial.
  • The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has been working on a digital yuan for the past few years but has made clear that it has not yet officially launched.

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McDonald’s is among a handful of companies taking part in a new pilot program for China’s upcoming digital yuan, according to state-backed media, as the world’s second-largest economy pushes forward with its plans for an electronic currency.

The People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, has been developing a digital currency over the past few years. While there are very few details at the moment about its exact design, it’s unlikely to resemble popular cryptocurrency bitcoin, which supports anonymity and decentralization, that is, it’s not issued by a central authority.

China’s digital yuan will be issued by the PBOC and the focus appears to be making digital payments easier and faster.

McDonald’s, Starbucks and Subway are the three U.S. firms among 19 companies in total that will be participating in the digital currency trial in Xiong’an, which held a promotional event on Wednesday, state-backed Securities Times reported.

However, a Starbucks spokesperson told CNBC the company is “not participating in any digital currency trial in China.”

McDonald’s and Subway were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC. The central government agency reportedly overseeing the project did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Xiong’an is a special district about 86 miles southwest of Beijing in Hebei province and is President Xi Jinping’s personal project for building a new economic center. It’s unclear though how much progress has been made since its launch in 2017.

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Xi emphasized in a speech on Thursday that the country would step up development of 5G, artificial intelligence and other technologies at a massive scale known as “new infrastructure.”

The announcement of that pilot program, which appeared to focus on retail and catering, follows another recent test in Suzhou where the digital yuan was being used to give subsidies to local workers for transport.

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