China subtly redesigned its new 100-yuan bill to confound counterfeiters

“Golden” 100,
“Golden” 100,
Image: AP Photo/Kin Cheung
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On Thursday, Nov 12, China’s central bank released a new set of 100-yuan banknotes into the market. The almost-imperceptible redesign is the first upgrade in 10 years for China’s highest-value banknote (worth about US $16).

The new 100-yuan bill closely resembles earlier editions, but now includes enhanced anti-counterfeiting features such as color-changing inks, an extra serial number, and on the reverse, more complicated patterns in the illustration of the Great Hall of the People building in Beijing.

Adding new security measures to the bill’s design is a first step to addressing China’s problem of forged renminbi. Last year, officials confiscated a total of 532 million yuan ($87 million) in fake bills, a spike from 329 million yuan just two years ago.

A new counterfeit ¥100 bill sells for 6 yuan in the market and gains value as it gets passed around, explained Liu Jintao, director of the anti-counterfeiting department of Guangdong Public Security Department to the South China Morning Post in March.

Peng Daxiang, a 73-year-old master painter from Guangdong province who drew dozens of 100-yuan printing plates was found to have been responsible for 97% of all counterfeit bills in China. He is currently serving a life sentence after his arrest in 2013.

The tradition of using paper money as the primary commercial instrument began in China during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century. The inscription on the ancient Ming notes included an admonition to forgers “’to counterfeit is death.’