https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2021/05/06/will-going-digital-transform-the-yuans-status-at-home-and-abroad

Swapping notes
换掉纸币

Will going digital transform the yuan’s status at home and abroad?

数字化会改变人民币在国内外的地位吗?

WITH A FEW taps on her phone, Lu Qingqing, a 24-year-old Office worker, leapt into the monetary future. She was one of 50,000 people in Shenzhen selected late last year for a trial of China’s digital currency, called eCNY. She downloaded an App, received 200 yuan ($30) from the government and went shopping for books. The App’s display showed a traditional banknote.“It felt like real money,”she says.

点几下手机,24 岁的上班族陆青青(音译)便迈入了未来货币时代。去年年底,中国的数字货币也就是数字人民币在深圳试点,陆女士是五万名入选的参与者之一。她下载了一个应用,收到了政府发的 200 元钱,然后去买书。显示在这款应用上的是一张传统的钞票。「感觉就像真钱一样。」她说。

Legally, it is as real as hard cash. All the money in an eCNY App, offered by one of six commercial banks, is backed by an equivalent deposit at the People’s Bank of China. Just as the central bank stands behind any paper yuan, so does it guarantee eCNY. If, say, the commercial bank that made Ms Lu’s digital wallet went bust, her eCNY—linked to her personal-identity number—would be transferred to a new wallet.

从法律上说,它和纸钞一样真实。在由六家商业银行的任一提供的数字人民币应用中,所有资金都由它们在中国人民银行的等值存款作为担保。正如人行为所有纸质人民币提供支持一样,它也为数字人民币提供担保。比如,如果创建了陆女士的数字钱包的商业银行破产了,与她的身份证号码相关联的数字货币就会被转移到新的钱包中。

Central banks worldwide are considering issuing digital versions of notes and coins. Although China will not be the first (that honour goes to the Bahamas), it is the most important launching ground. It is the world’s leader in mobile payments (see chart 1). More than half a million people have already received eCNY in trials since last year. China’s central bank is studying how to spread it abroad. Niall Ferguson, a historian, has called on America to wake up to the peril of letting China“mint the money of the future”。

世界各国的央行都在考虑发行数字版的纸币和硬币。虽然中国不会是第一个发行数字货币的国家(这份荣耀归于巴哈马),但它却是最重要的发行地。它是全球移动支付的领头羊(见图表 1)。自去年以来已有超过 50 万人试用了数字人民币。人行正在研究如何将它推广到海外。历史学家尼尔・弗格森(Niall Ferguson)已呼吁美国认识到让中国「铸造未来货币」的危险。

China’s digital currency was first conceived as a way to curb the big mobile-money providers. Now three bold claims are being made about it: that it will dramatically enhance China’s surveillance capabilities; that it will allow the state to wield far more control over money; and that it will challenge the dollar for prominence.

中国发行数字货币的初衷是为了遏制大型移动支付供应商。现在,关于这种货币有了三个大胆的说法:它将极大提高中国的监控能力;它能让政府大大增强对货币的控制权;它还将挑战美元的显赫地位。

Within China, however, many economists are far Less bullish. The design of the eCNY, and the nature of China’s economic system, mean that each of these claims is unlikely to be realised soon.“The digital yuan is not magic, so we don’t expect magic from it,”says Gary Liu of the China Financial Reform Institute in Shanghai.

然而,中国国内的许多经济学家远没有那么乐观。数字人民币的设计以及中国经济体制的性质意味着这三种说法都不太可能很快成为现实。「数字人民币不是魔法,所以我们不指望它有什么奇效。」上海国是金融改革研究院的刘胜军表示。

Start with the first claim, that digitisation offers unmatched surveillance abilities, letting the state track all spending. It is not entirely wrong. But it is a limited gain compared with its existing powers.

先来看第一个说法——数字货币提供了无与伦比的监控能力,让政府可以追踪每一笔开支。这种说法也不全错。但相比政府原本已有的监控能力,数字货币带来的提升有限。

Most mobile payments today involve a bank card, tethered to users’accounts on Alipay or WeChat. These must pass through NetsUnion, a central clearing platform. Similarly, foreign-exchange transactions take place on the China Foreign Exchange Trade System. In both cases regulators can see how people spend in real time. For mobile payments that do not touch banks, officials can demand a record and, says an industry insider, may soon require real-time reporting, too.

如今,大部分移动支付都要用到与用户的支付宝或微信账号绑定的银行卡。这些支付必须通过网联清算这个中央清算平台。同样,外汇交易也要通过中国外汇交易系统。在这两种情况下,监管机构都可以实时监测人们的开支情况。对于不涉及银行的移动支付,官员们可以要求它们提供记录,而且据一位业内人士说,可能很快也会要求提供实时报告。

The upshot is that, even without eCNY, regulators have no real blind spots left, apart from old-fashioned cash. And so long as millions of older citizens do not much like paying for things with smartphones, the government will not phase out cash.

结果就是,即使没有数字人民币,除了传统的现金外,监管机构也没有真正的盲点了。而只要还有大批老年人不太喜欢用智能手机付款,政府就不会废除现金。

The second bold claim about eCNY is that it will reshape monetary policy in China. According to this view, the central bank will be able to program money to be used for specific purposes and at predefined times. This, however, both understates what the central bank can already do and overstates what the eCNY will let it do.

第二个关于数字人民币的大胆说法是它将重塑中国的货币政策。按照这种看法,人行将能够控制资金的使用,让它在指定时间用于指定用途。然而,这既低估了人行既有的能力,也高估了数字人民币将赋予该行的能力。

China already manages both the money supply and interest rates with different sectors in mind. Since 2015, for instance, it has created hundreds of billions of yuan for the construction of affordable housing. More recently it has instructed banks to lower interest rates for small firms.

中国在管理货币供应和利率时已经考虑到了不同部门。例如,自 2015 年以来,中国为经济适用房建设提供了数千亿元的资金。最近,它向各银行下达了为小企业降息的指示。

The eCNY, one might assume, will make targeting more precise. But its design will circumscribe its role. The central bank will replace only a small portion of base money, known as M0, with eCNY, leaving the REST of the money supply undisturbed (see chart 2). It will distribute eCNY through commercial banks, which in turn will make it available to the public. It will not pay interest on eCNY. And it will probably place low ceilings on how much people can hold.

有人可能认为数字人民币能更精准地定位。但它的设计会限制它的作用。人行只会用数字人民币替代一小部分基础货币也就是 M0(流通中现金),其余的货币供应不受影响(见图表 2)。它将通过商业银行分发数字人民币,从而让公众用上数字人民币。它不会为数字人民币支付利息。而且它规定的持有上限可能会比较低。

Granted, the central bank may in time expand the eCNY’s role. But the limitations exist for a reason. The government is wary of undermining the financial system. It does not want savers to switch out of bank deposits en masse into eCNY, which would make it harder for banks to fund themselves. Moreover, few serious economists in Beijing like the idea of a 100% eCNY money supply, in which the government could directly control how banks lend.“We don’t want to go back to central planning. That would be a mistake,”says Yu Yongding, a former adviser to the central bank.

诚然,人行在日后可能会扩大数字人民币的角色。但目前设置这些限制是有原因的。政府很小心地不要破坏金融体系。它不希望储户全部弃用银行存款而转向数字人民币,这会增加银行的融资难度。此外,政府中鲜有严肃的经济学家赞同百分之百供应数字人民币的想法,即使这样政府就可以直接控制银行的放贷。「我们不想回到中央计划。那会是个错误。」前央行顾问余永定表示。

The final bold claim is that eCNY will catapult the yuan to global status. But that misunderstands why it accounts for just 2% of international payments today, about the same as the Canadian dollar. When deciding which currencies to use, companies and investors consider how easily they can make conversions to other currencies; how freely they can invest them; and whether they trust the issuing countries’legal systems. China’s insistence on maintaining far tighter capital controls than any other major economy, as well as deep-seated doubts about its political system, blunt the yuan’s appeal. The limiting factors are policy and politics, not technology.

最后一个大胆的说法是数字人民币将让人民币一跃成为全球货币。但这误解了为什么如今人民币只占国际支付总额的 2%,与加元差不多。公司和投资者在决定使用哪种货币时,会考虑货币兑换的难易程度、投资该货币的自由度,以及他们对发行国的法律体系的信任度。中国坚持维持比其他主要经济体都严格得多的资本管制,加上人们对其政治体制根深蒂固的怀疑,都削弱了人民币的吸引力。制约人民币的因素是政策和政治,而不是技术。

Even the technological case for eCNY is far from clear-cut. When companies transfer money in and out of China, they already use currency in a digital format: electronic messages on the SWIFT payments network instruct banks to credit accounts in one country and debit them in another. What slows things down is complying with China’s capital controls and with international regulations such as those aimed at stopping money-laundering.

就算是数字人民币的技术优势也远未明确。当公司把资金转入或转出中国时,它们已经在使用数字形式的货币了:银行根据 SWIFT 支付网络上的电子信息,在一个国家记入贷方账户,同时在另一个国家记入借方账户。转账流程慢是因为要遵守中国的资本管制以及防洗钱之类的国际法则。

The eCNY will not eliminate such checks, and the Belgium-headquartered SWIFT system, which connects more than 11,000 financial institutions, is likely to remain the most efficient conduit for sharing payment information across borders.“Even in the long term, SWIFT will remain indispensable,”says Liu Dongmin of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

数字人民币不会省掉这类核查,而且总部位于比利时的 SWIFT 系统连接了超过 1.1 万家金融机构,可能仍然是最高效的跨境支付信息共享的渠道。「即使从长期看,SWIFT 仍将不可或缺。」中国社会科学院的刘东民表示。

The three more radical claims about it may not be realised, but will the eCNY fulfil the original aim, of giving the central bank a foothold in the digital-payments universe? Probably, but not a giant one. After the eCNY trial in Shenzhen, Ms Lu said that she would use it for some payments, but that Alipay and WeChat were far more convenient because of how they tie into commercial and social-messaging networks. Mr Liu of the China Financial Reform Institute expects others to concur. He predicts that in three years the eCNY will account for Less than 5% of mobile payments.

关于数字人民币的这三个较为激进的说法可能不会变成现实,但数字人民币能否实现它最初的目标,让人行在数字支付领域占得一席之地?很可能,但占比不会太大。深圳数字人民币的试点结束后,陆女士说她会用数字人民币支付一些费用,但使用支付宝和微信要方便得多,因为它们与商业和社交通讯网络紧密相连。国是金融改革研究院的刘胜军认为其他人也是这样想的。他预计,三年内数字人民币占移动支付的比例将低于 5%。

Western governments and central bankers mulling digital currencies of their own may wonder if the outcome of the eCNY experiment will contain any lessons for them. But China is unusual in so many ways—from its sheltered financial system and intricate capital controls to the size of its mobile payments—that its experience could well prove to be unique. And other countries are sure to implement different designs for their digital currencies. Still, China’s caution with the eCNY, if nothing else, hints at how disruptive the technology, if unconstrained, could be.

正在酝酿自己的数字货币的西方政府和央行官员可能会想知道,数字人民币试点的结果是否有任何可借鉴之处。但中国在太多方面都与众不同——从它受保护的金融体系、错综复杂的资本管制,到它移动支付的规模——所以它的经验很可能也是独一无二的。其他国家肯定会为自己设计不同的数字货币。不过,中国对数字人民币的谨慎做法至少暗示了,如果不受限制,这项技术的颠覆力可能会非常之大

Published since September 1843 to take part in “a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.”

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我们应该学会去理解别人的观点,不仅仅是服从和被告知。

我们应该学会去理解别人的观点,不仅仅是服从和被告知。
我们应该学会去理解别人的观点,不仅仅是服从和被告知。
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