“Olympic athletes should be aware that the digital yuan may be used to surveil Chinese citizens and those visiting China on an unprecedented scale, with the hopes that they will maintain digital yuan wallets on their smartphones and continue to use it upon return,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent Monday to Susanne Lyons, board chair of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
China’s gift, still in trial stages, has sparked fears that it may question the U.S. dollar’s status as the world dominant reserve currency despite claims from Chinese officials that it will mainly be used for domestic retail transactions. Across China, more than 20.8 million individuals have started a virtual wallet, the People’s Bank of China said in a white paper published Friday.
The Senators, all members of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, requested a briefing on their request within 30 days. The lawmakers’ actions only exposed their ignorance, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a regular press briefing Tuesday in Beijing.
“We suggest they figure out what a digital currency really is,” he said. “The U.S. politicians should abide by the spirit stipulated in the Olympic Charter, stop making sports a political matter and stop making troubles out of the digital currency in China.”
Friday’s white paper said that overseas visitors will be given access to China’s digital currency without the requirement to start a local bank account during trials at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The PBOC has yet to establish a schedule for the full roll-out of the so-called Digital Currency Electronic Payment but confirmed on Friday that 34.5 billion yuan (US$5.3 billion) had already been spent through 70.8 million transactions as part of ongoing trials of the e-yuan over the last two years.
Earlier this month, deputy PBOC governor Fan Yifei proved that the Winter Olympics in 2022 would be the next key trial, adding that the central bank had “the confidence to continue increasing the scope of the trials”.
“We will continue to steadily push forward with research and pilots for the digital yuan, but we won’t present a timetable [for the launch],” the PBOC said.
During next year’s Winter Olympics, self-service carts, vending machines, and stores will be approved to publish wearable payment devices such as gloves, badges, and things that will allow easy use of the digital yuan.