China’s central bank digital currency transactions totalled 100 billion yuan (US$14 billion) from the start of the e-CNY initiative in December 2019 to the end of August this year, according to the latest figures released by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). While that was up 14 per cent from the 87.6 billion yuan total at the end of 2021, it was well behind the 154 per cent growth rate recorded during the six-month period from June to December 2021, when the PBOC last reported e-CNY data. The PBOC said adoption of its digital currency continues to progress and that it will continue to carry out research and development “in a solid way”, according to a statement released on Wednesday. The central bank did not provide data about the latest number of e-CNY wallets, which reached 261 million at the end of last year. Still, total e-CNY transactions as of the end of August – covering trials in 23 cities, including Beijing , Shanghai and Shenzhen – show that China’s official digital currency still has a long way to go before its turnover could be at the level of the country’s top digital payment providers, Ant Group ’s Alipay and Tencent Holdings ’ WeChat Pay. Alipay, for example, earlier reported 118 trillion yuan in total transactions in the 12-month period ended June 2021. That means e-CNY’s total transactions over 2.7 years amounted to about one-third of Alipay’s daily turnover. Ant Group is the financial technology affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding , owner of the South China Morning Post. “The country’s digital payment market, as a whole, declined in the first half of this year because of Covid-19 control measures and the slowing economy ,” Wang Pengbo, a senior financial analyst at market consultancy Botong Analysys, said on Wednesday. Digital payments processed by non-banking institutions reached 84 trillion yuan in the first quarter and 79 trillion yuan in the second quarter, which was down 2 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, from a year earlier, according to the PBOC. Beijing to expand trials of digital yuan to four entire provinces including Guangdong Although the e-CNY roll-out is being done in stages, the digital currency “may have reached a bottleneck” in terms of attracting more users, Wang said. “[The PBOC’s] focus should now be on improving user experience and usage frequency.” Central bank data shows that about 5.6 million merchants on the mainland now accept the digital currency. China’s major online platforms, including multipurpose super app WeChat, Alipay, e-commerce platform operator JD.com and on-demand food delivery giant Meituan have all enabled e-CNY as a payment option. The government, however, has not released a timetable on the e-CNY’s full nationwide roll-out. China vows ‘limited scope’ for monitoring digital yuan data Last month, China completed a 40-day trial using the e-CNY to settle trades with Hong Kong, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates via a special “bridge” arrangement, according to a brief report published by the Financial News, the mouthpiece of the Chinese central bank. That trial, conducted from August 15 to September 23, handled more than 160 cross-border payments and foreign exchange transactions totalling over 150 million yuan among 20 commercial banks across four jurisdictions, according to the report. The PBOC said it also plans to promote the use of e-CNY in cash management and payment of salaries, while moving to expand adoption in various government services.