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China's digital currency passes 100 billion yuan in spending - PBOC

A sign indicating digital yuan, also referred to as e-CNY, is pictured at a shopping mall in Shanghai

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Transactions using China's digital yuan surpassed 100 billion yuan ($13.9 billion) as of Aug. 31, China's central bank said on Wednesday, as the country continues its roll-out of a central bank digital currency.

The spending involved 360 million transactions in pilot areas in 15 provinces and municipalities, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) said, adding that more than 5.6 million merchants could now accept payments with the digital currency.

China is at the fore of a global race to develop central bank digital currencies, although adoption is still in the early stages. Transactions using e-CNY rose from 87.6 billion yuan by the end of 2021, the PBOC said.

Pilot regions offered nearly 30 rounds of e-CNY subsidies in 2022, including $4.5 million in free digital cash in Shanghai in May, to stimulate consumption, fight the pandemic and promote low-carbon transport, the PBOC said.

The central bank also took part in the cross-border multiple Central Bank Digital Currency (mCBDC) Bridge trial developed by the Bank of International Settlements and conducted tests to connect with Hong Kong's local digital payment system, it said.

The e-CNY has so far been used mainly for domestic retail payments, but will be promoted for use in corporate and personal business, as well as in finance, taxation, and government affairs, the bank said.

It also vowed to connect the e-CNY system with the traditional digital payment system, dominated by Alibaba Group's Alipay and Tencent Holding's WeChat Pay, to make it more convenient for consumers and merchants.

(Reporting by Jason Xue and Brenda Goh; editing by Richard Pullin)