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You can now spend China's digital currency at an online store

JD.com will take your digital yuan.
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 11: A receptionist from Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com poses from her desk under the Singles Day banner in the lobby at the company's headquarters during an organized tour on November 11, 2020 in Beijing, China. The online shopping blitz, known as Singles Day or Double 11, is the world's largest retail event and comes as Chinese consumers are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. The revival of consumer consumption is expected to boost China's economy, which is already showing signs of post-pandemic recovery and providing a bright spot for global brands and retailers. Singles Day sales for China's biggest e-commerce giants like JD.com are on pace to break previous records, pulling in $56 billion U.S. in the first 30 minutes, when combined with three days of pre-event sales. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|December 6, 2020 5:37 PM

China’s official digital currency is now usable in a meaningful way... more or less. Reuters reports that JD.com now accepts digital yuan for some purchases at its site, making it the first online platform to take the virtual money. You’ll need to have received the currency as part of a lottery-style experimental giveaway to residents of Suzhou (near Shanghai), but it’s a big step toward normalizing the format.

The move follows another lottery for citizens in Shenzhen. Tests started in April 2019, when you could use the currency in physical stores

Unlike ‘conventional’ cryptocurrencies, a central bank controls digital yuan — in this case, the People’s Bank of China. The move gives the country more power and, in theory, more stability than frequently volatile formats like bitcoin. China can do more to embrace a cash-free society without leaning on foreign technology.

China won’t be alone. Countries like Japan and Venezuela are either exploring or using their own digital currencies. This move could put China ahead in real-world use, though, and might fuel other countries’ efforts to develop virtual cash.

You can now spend China's digital currency at an online store