The Chinese Way to a cashless society (under surveillance)

Among the many wonders Marco Polo encountered on his journey to China in the 13th century was paper money. The Chinese invention so impressed the Venetian traveler that he observed the Mongol emperor at the time had “a more extensive command of treasure than any other sovereign in the universe.”

Today, China is again at the forefront of monetary innovation. It plans to eliminate notes, which have been circulating for 1,500 years, and launch a digital-only currency. Coins will disappear, too.

In preparation for becoming the world’s first major economy to go fully cashless, several Chinese megacities marked the lunar year of the Ox, celebrated Feb. 12, by handing out millions of renminbi worth of digital “red packets” via a lottery. The virtual currency is supposed to circulate nationwide in time for the Winter Olympics next year.

As usage spreads, the rulers of modern-day China will also exert more control over a nation’s wealth than any sovereign has ever achieved.

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The cashless society from an ethical point of view

The debate about the move towards a cashless society has been at the center of the scene for several years, now. Various angles have been taken by economists, politicians, banking institutions and sociologists. Beyond the technicalities of the debate, lies the question of freedom, of inter-citizen solidarity and of governmental responsibility. The debate cannot remain in the hands of financial specialists, it is first and foremost an ethical, political and societal issue.

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