No Cigar: Coronavirus Outbreak Forces China to Delay Digital Currency Plans

A Chinese state-run media outlet confirmed that the coronavirus has hampered the development of the People's Bank of China's (PBOC) digital currency plans.
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Despite the efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak of COVID-19, the epidemic continues to cross the globe, with many other countries reporting relatively substantial spreads of the virus.

In South Korea, for instance, the number of cases has reached 1,600, from the sub-100 count seen just a week ago, and in Italy, too, the coronavirus is rapidly spreading.

Understandably, this has started to affect many facets of the world’s economy and daily living — Bloomberg reported that the count of visitors arriving in Hong Kong is down over 90%, companies like Apple and Samsung have started to see the outbreak affect their business, and many across the world have been forced to stay home from work and school amid the unrest.

The damaging effects of the outbreak were accentuated on Tuesday, when a Chinese state-run media outlet confirmed that the coronavirus has hampered the development of the People’s Bank of China’s (PBOC) digital currency plans.

Chinese Media: Digital Currency On Hold as Coronavirus Spreads

If you’ve followed the crypto news cycle over the past few months, you’ve likely seen the near-incessant stream of reports that China’s central bank, the PBOC, is on the verge of launching its own digital currency, branded the “DCEP” by reports from local media.

In fact, a December report from Caijing, which cited individuals familiar with the PBOC’s operations, suggested that the central bank was going to roll out a pilot program for the national crypto asset at the start of 2020 in Shenzhen and another municipality.

Despite other reports corroborating the idea that the PBOC was done the base layer development of their digital yuan, nothing came of the Caijing report and others like it. The reason: coronavirus.

According to a recent report from The Global Times — an English news outlet closely affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party’s de-facto media mouthpiece, The People’s Daily — “sources close to the matter” say “China’s research into its sovereign digital currency has been delayed from the first quarter due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.”

The source elaborated that the outbreak has forced staff of the PBOC and of other government institutions to stay home and avoid certain activities, “which weighs on the development process.”

This was further confirmed by Shentu Qingchun, CEO of Shenzhen-based blockchain company BankLedger, a company that The Global Times claims is involved in the launch of DCEP. Shentu purportedly said while the PBOC intended to make an announcement regarding the digital currency in Q1 2020, the chances the “announcement could be made on time are slim.”

Those interviewed by the outlet remain largely optimistic, however, affirming their support for the project and suggesting that the launch of the digital currency is likely still on track to take place sometime this year.

Other Effects Are Being Felt

The coronavirus outbreak has been affecting the cryptocurrency and blockchain space in other ways.

Over the past few weeks, even as BTC’s price has shot higher from the $6,400 December bottom, the hash rate of the Bitcoin network has stagnated around 110 exahashes per second. While this metric is still nearly triple that seen one year ago, the stagnation began when the coronavirus began hitting mainstream media headlines in the West, around the start of January.

This suggests the coronavirus is slowing the efforts of Bitcoin miners to expand their operations; indeed, as explained in a previous Blockonomi report, Jiang Zhuoer of BTC.Top revealed that the police had shut down his mine due to the coronavirus.

Also, crypto conferences have been delayed, as have conferences in the traditional tech world. Most notably, Token2049 — a Hong Kong conference that this writer intended on attending this March — was pushed until October.

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I am a writer who has been following the cryptocurrency space since 2013. My insights and interviews have been featured in leading publications in the industry such as LongHash, NewsBTC, and Decrypt. When I am not writing, I work as a team member of the EXODUS division of HTC, a Taiwanese electronics company. I own a small amount of Bitcoin. Contact

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