FT: patents reveal extent of China’s digital currency plans

The People’s Bank of China has filed more than 80 patents related to its secretive plans to launch a digital currency, according to new research that shows the extent of Beijing’s ambitions to digitise the renminbi.

The patents, seen and verified by the Financial Times, include proposals related to the issuance and supply of a central bank digital currency, a system for interbank settlements that uses the currency, and the integration of digital currency wallets into existing retail bank accounts.

“The theme is that China has made massive investments and are taking this very seriously,” said Perianne Boring, president of the chamber. “That is drastically different from the United States’ approach and this just highlights that.”

While the majority of the patents are attributed to the PBoC’s Digital Currency Research Institute, some are attributed to state-owned corporations or subsidiaries of the Chinese central government.

Several of the 84 patents reviewed by the Financial Times indicate that China may plan to algorithmically adjust the supply of a central bank digital currency based on certain triggers, such as loan interest rates.

Some outline mechanisms to allow customers to make deposits with their existing banks and then exchange that for digital currency, while interbank settlement and clearing can potentially be sped up behind the scenes.

Other patents are focused on building digital currency chip cards or digital currency wallets that banking consumers could potentially use, which would be linked directly to their bank accounts.

“Virtually all of these patent applications relate to integrating a system of digital currency into the existing banking infrastructure,” said Marc Kaufman, a partner and patent attorney at Rimon Law, who worked with the chamber on the project.

While some of the patents mentioned the guarantee of peer-to-peer privacy, there were no mechanisms to prevent the Chinese central bank from having full oversight of users’ transactions, Boring said.

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