Major payments app WeChat to add support for China’s digital yuan

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While WeChat isn’t as popular outside of China as WhatsApp, it is ubiquitous on the mainland.

WeChat, China’s largest messaging app and one of the country’s most popular payment services, will start supporting the Chinese government’s digital currency.

On Jan. 6, 2021, Tencent announced that it will begin accepting digital yuan payments via its proprietary mobile wallet WeChat Pay, according to a local news report. China has been developing a digital yuan since 2014, and it has yet to be implemented nationwide. If people start paying for goods and services with WeChat, which has more than 1 billion users, it will give it a significant boost.

WeChat’s enormous user base and multitude of wrapped services have earned it the moniker of a “mega-app.” Users can use WeChat Pay to chat, pay bills, and order food or transportation. There are over 800 million monthly active users on WeChat Pay.

Linghao Bao, an analyst at consultancy firm Trivium China, told CNBC, “Chinese consumers are so locked in WeChat Pay and Alipay, it’s not realistic to convince them to switch to a new mobile payment app. So it makes sense for the central bank to team up with WeChat Pay and Alipay as opposed to doing it on its own.”

Related: China’s digital yuan deploys at speed, leaving dust in its path

So far, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has conducted limited tests of the digital yuan in several cities involving small quantities of the currency in commercial and consumer environments. Despite the fact that there is no timetable for a nationwide rollout, there are indications that the PBoC is interested in expanding usage of the digital currency.

China has established a significant lead in developing a central bank digital currency for public use, exceeding the majority of countries that are still in their respective research phases. Earlier this week, the country’s central bank released a pilot version of a digital yuan wallet app on the Chinese iOS and Android stores. 

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