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SBI Boss Says that China Is Leading the CBDC Race – Ahead of the USA and Europe

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 3 min read
SBI’s chief executive Yoshitaka Kitao. Source:

The CEO of the Japanese financial heavyweight and crypto player SBI Holdings Yoshitaka Kitao has spoken out about central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) – and says China is currently leading the world in digital fiat technology.

Kitao was quoted by the domestic media outlet Dime as stating:

“China is the most advanced nation in the field of CBDC [technology], with the United States and Europe following suit.”

He noted that in the world of trade finance, fiat was currently dominant, but asserted that this was only the case “so far.” He mused that this could quickly change if a CBDC became a “national currency.”

Kitao, who is also a member of the Ripple board, claimed that market players must venture into “new financial markets” and develop new “financial products” accordingly.

He noted that it was difficult for domestic banks to “work on cutting-edge fields” like CBDCs “at this point,” adding that SBI’s own research unit was “working intensively and conducting research” into digital fiat-related innovation.

The central Bank of Japan (BOJ) is currently testing its own digital yen prototype, but like most advanced economies (with the exception of China and its digital yuan project) it has yet to commit to a CBDC launch.

Kitao also stated that crypto and “digital” assets would experience more growth in the future, adding: 

“I think the digital asset finance sector will advance to the point where the digital economy – including cashless society efforts – have already penetrated.”

SBI’s own crypto-related activity has boomed in recent years, with a profitable crypto mining arm now up and running and a plethora of international crypto firms in its portfolio.

The firm also snapped up the rival TaoTao platform in an ambitious move, and is currently integrating the exchange with its own-branded platform.

The company also co-runs the SBI Ripple Asia payments initiative in conjunction with Ripple.

However, the success of SBI’s domestic crypto subsidiary – SBI VC Trade – has been somewhat more muted. In 2018, Kitao claimed that when SBI launched its own trading platform, it would “become” the Japanese market’s “number one exchange in the blink of an eye.”

This has not quite proven to be the case – and has not proven to be true for the likes of the chat app giant Line or the e-commerce behemoth Rakuten, either.

In a survey of 300 Japanese crypto investors conducted by the media outlet CoinOtaku, respondents were asked to choose their favorite crypto exchange. The winner, with 30% of the vote, was Coincheck, the trading platform that suffered the largest hack in crypto history back in 2018. After the hack, Coincheck (initially a small startup) was taken over by the SBI rival Monex Group.

In second place was bitFlyer, a much smaller company than the likes of SBI, Line, and the rest, with over 20% of the vote. In third place was GMO Coin, another crypto startup. Placing fourth was Rakuten’s Rakuten Wallet, with another SME – DMM Bitcoin – rounding out the top 5.

Just 2% plumped for SBI VC Trade, and just over 1.5% chose Line’s Bitmax.
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