The Chinese digital currency as a threat to Freedom

Many observers are treating China’s plan for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) as a strictly progressive, technical move that other nations should emulate. The United States, in particular, is concerned that China already has a large head start, which may threaten the dollar’s dominance as a reserve currency. Although the alleged purpose of supplying a digital yuan is to reduce transaction costs and make the payments system more efficient, the Chinese people themselves have good reasons for not sharing that sanguine opinion. The real intent of introducing a digital yuan is more likely to be to increase state control of the payments system and to closely monitor transactions and even personal behavior.

China’s Move toward a Cashless Society

The claim that the digital yuan is needed to supply the Chinese public with more efficient alternatives to paper money overlooks the alternatives already available to them through non-state payments service providers. China has moved quickly toward a cashless society via the widespread use of Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay. Mobile phones are ubiquitous, and it is very easy to pay once an account is set up. The convenience of using mobile payment apps and e-wallets has enticed more than 900 million Chinese citizens to enter the digital payments market.

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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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