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China’s FX Minister Suggests CBDC Programmability for Macroeconomic Management

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Source: James Jiao/Adobe

An official from China’s foreign exchange regulatory body has suggested the potential use of “programmable features” within China’s Central Bank-Backed Digital Currency (CBDC) to bolster the effectiveness of monetary policy tools. 

China, alongside several other nations, is diligently working on the development of CBDCs, digital tokens issued and regulated by central banks, although their widespread adoption remains in its early stages.

CBDC Programmability Can Be Used for Macro Economic Management

At present, CBDCs predominantly serve as M0 currency, akin to physical cash in circulation. 

However, Lu Lei, the Deputy Administrator of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), has proposed that central banks could harness the programmable attributes of CBDCs to elevate their status to M2 currency, encompassing deposits and savings, Reuters reported.

The idea behind “programmable features” in CBDCs revolves around their inherent flexibility. 

This involves the capacity to set parameters that can be altered, allowing for a range of possibilities. For instance, money could be programmed to have an expiration date or be limited in its utilization for specific purposes.

Lu Lei has further envisioned the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) exploring the potential of these programmable features to adjust interest rates within the CBDC framework. 

The adaptability of CBDCs, as highlighted by Lu, could also be used for macroeconomic management, offering central banks more tools to fine-tune economic stability.

Chinese Banks Trial Cross-Border CBDCs with BIS

Cross-border transactions are another domain where CBDCs exhibit significant promise. According to Lu, utilizing CBDCs for cross-border payments can substantially enhance the safety, convenience, and inclusivity of such transactions.

Chinese state-owned banks have been actively participating in trials focused on cross-border CBDC transactions, collaborating with the Bank of International Settlements. 

These trials mark a concerted effort to evaluate the practicality and efficiency of CBDCs in facilitating international financial transactions.

Transactions involving China’s own CBDC, known as the e-CNY, reached 1.8 trillion yuan ($249.33 billion) by the end of June. 

However, e-CNY in circulation remains a small fraction, accounting for just 0.16% of China’s M0 money supply.