China’s central bank is hiring blockchain experts to help it kill off cash

No need for all this hassle if it’s in the cloud.
No need for all this hassle if it’s in the cloud.
Image: Reuters
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China’s central bank is hiring blockchain experts to help it develop its own digital currency, according to a recruitment ad (in Mandarin) published by the bank on Nov. 9.

The central bank has been working to create and issue a digital currency for years in order to replace cash, the bank’s governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, has said previously. Blockchain technology is among the systems it has examined. Although the central bank hasn’t said outright that its project will use blockchain tech, the job descriptions add weight to the idea.

The job ad says there are six vacancies for digital currency roles at the central bank. Applicants with experience in blockchain technology development are desirable. It also lists experience with big data, cryptography, and systems design as other criteria. Successful applicants will work on hardware and software development. Shanghai Daily was the first to report on the notice.

The central bank’s recruitment drive is its latest move to develop a national digital currency. In September vice governor Fan Yifei wrote a column for Bloomberg View talking up a state-issued digital currency and its many benefits, which include reduced operating costs, increased efficiency, and new types of applications.

Fan’s piece followed an interview given by the central bank’s chief, Zhou, to financial news publisher Caixin in February where he described how a national digital currency would eventually eliminate cash, although the two would co-exist for “a long time.”

To be clear, the Chinese central bank isn’t talking about adopting bitcoin as a national currency. Instead it wants to use the concepts behind bitcoin, such as a series of digital ledgers that can be reconciled efficiently (generally described as blockchain technology). The central bank would still retain control over the country’s money supply, Zhou said in his Caixin interview.

The Chinese central bank’s impulse to digitize unwieldy cash in the name of efficiency echoes that of India’s government, which is in the throes of a messy demonetization program. While Narendra Modi’s government wants to eliminate high denomination notes to better control illicit money flows, Zhou’s central bank envisions a future where citizens deal in digital tender that’s stored in the cloud.

Paper money is “last-generation currency,” Zhou told Caixin. “It is an irresistible trend that paper money will be replaced by new products and new technologies with greater security and lower cost,” he said.