Senator sounds the alarm on international rollout of digital yuan during Beijing Olympics

One senator is calling on US President Joe Biden's cabinet to watch out for China's digital yuan, which is seeing its first international usage during the Winter Olympics in Beijing. 

In a February 3 letter, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PN) asked Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to "closely examine Beijing’s CBDC rollout during the Olympic Games."

A CBDC is a central bank digital currency, and China's CBDC is the largest of its kind to launch. Though its digital wallet just hit the app stores of Android and Apple in January, some form of digital yuan has been circulating for much longer, with over 10% of China's population having downloaded a wallet as of November. However, it has been mostly unavailable to foreign users until now. 

"While the United States is still evaluating the concept of a digital dollar, China is using the Beijing Winter Olympics as an international test for the digital yuan," Toomey explained. 

In addition to asking for an assessment of China's strategies for getting foreign entities to use its digital currency, Toomey enjoins Yellen and Blinken to learn how China is handling transaction data and to what degree it is using its blockchain networks as a tool of censorship. He specifically accuses China's Blockchain-based Services Network of incorporating "severely modified and controlled versions of blockchains like Ethereum and Solana."

US observers, including lawmakers, have looked askance at China's plans for a CBDC since they were originally announced. Particularly in light of media crackdowns, social scoring and human rights abuses within China, a digital yuan strikes many as a tool of control.