China’s sovereign digital currency has been embedded into WeChat, China’s leading social networking and payment app, in a fresh move to lure new users.
WeChat Pay, which counts more than 1 billion monthly active users, now facilitates the “express payments” function of the digital yuan wallet. The red packet feature is a function made popular over the years by the country’s dominant payments app Alipay and WeChat Pay. Users can pay for orders on WeChat’s mini-programs and platforms like food delivery sites and grocery stores using the digital yuan, aka e-CNY.
After enabling the feature via the official e-CNY app, Alipay, the popular digital wallet run by Ant Group, was the first to introduce the country’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) to its payment services.
WeChat Pay’s adoption of the Chinese token as an express payment option follows the addition of an e-CNY channel on the app. In order to pay with digital yuan until now, users needed to activate the channel each time as it was not connected with merchant sites.
Currently, the e-CNY is being tested in 23 cities and regions in 15 provinces and provincial-level cities. However, officials say that the main purpose of the pilot program for the time being is to build confidence in the digital yuan’s reliability and ease of use.
China had more than 360 million e-CNY transactions, with a total volume topping 100 billion yuan ($14 billion) as of October, People Bank of China (PBoC) said on its official WeChat.
A total of 5.6 million commercial outlets across the country now accept digital yuan as a payment option. However, the growth figure was relatively modest when compared to the virtual currency’s transaction volume for the entirety of 2021, which reached 87.6 billion yuan ($13 billion).
Even though the e-CNY is now the most widely adopted CBDC in the world, the transaction volume grew by only 14 percent from a year earlier.
A former official of China’s central bank described the usage volume of e-CNY as a drop in the bucket compared with transactions conducted through the country’s dominant mobile payment systems. He expressed dissatisfaction about the progress made two years after launch, citing e-CNY’s limited turnover to just a few billion dollars.