China's central bank formed a partnership on Saturday with the fintech arm of JD.com, one of China's largest e-commerce companies, for projects like the development of apps to support digital currency efforts.
JD Digital Technology, the tech and payments subsidiary of the e-commerce company, will work with the People's Bank of China's Digital Currency Research Institute on the forthcoming digital renminbi.
This partnership will support the creation of new mobile apps, blockchain platforms and digital wallets, local Chinese media outlets reported on Monday. These new products will integrate with JD Group’s existing platforms and services.
China has completed technical preparations and satisfied proper conditions for deployment for its "central bank digital currency" initiative, according to China Banking News. A full launch would represent the world's first publicly available state-backed digital currency.
In 2014, the central bank first began research for developing a digital currency. The Digital Currency Research Institute was established in January 2017, and People's Bank of China had submitted several dozen patent applications regarding digital currency products by April of this year.
In August, four of the big six state-owned banks in China began testing digital renminbi wallets, including the Agricultural Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China and China Construction Bank.
The tests let users in the trial make withdrawals, payments and transfers using the central bank digital currency. Two more lenders, Postal Savings Bank of China and China CITIC Bank, were added to the program at the end of August.
China’s Ministry of Commerce then said it would soon carry out a pilot run for its digital currency project in large cities like Beijing. The pilot programs are set to begin by the end of 2020, and the central bank also has plans to test the digital currency during the 2022 Winter Olympics Games in Beijing.
China's domestic digital currency revolution comes amid the country's ongoing efforts to open up its finance industry to the rest of the world. Last month, the central bank pledged to “resolutely deepen” integration between China and the U.S. despite trade tensions.
China will continue to eliminate ownership restrictions for foreign financial firms in securities, fund management, futures and personal insurance, and further "deepen the reform of the financial industry and open up to the outside world," said People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang.
--Additional reporting by Zack Fishman, Minyoung Park and Theo Wayt