In China’s commercial hub Shanghai, six big state banks are quietly promoting digital yuan ahead of a May 5 shopping festival, carrying out a political mandate to provide consumers with a payment alternative to Alipay and WeChat Pay.
The banks are persuading merchant and retail clients to download digital wallets so that transactions during the pilot program can be made directly in digital yuan, bypassing the ubiquitous payment plumbing laid by tech giants Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba, and Tencent.
“People will realize that digital yuan payment is so convenient that I don’t have to rely on Alipay or WeChat Pay anymore,” said a bank official involved in the rollout of e-CNY for the Shanghai trial, under the guidance of China’s central bank. The official is not authorized to speak with media and declined to be identified.
China’s development of a sovereign digital currency, which is far ahead of similar initiatives in other major economies, looks increasingly poised to erode the dominance of Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay in online payments.
That turf encroachment coincides with Beijing’s expanding effort to clamp down on anticompetitive behavior in the internet sector, part of a wider reining in of the clout of sector heavyweights.