For those who can’t quite reconcile the Chinese government’s tentative acceptance of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies with the inherently anarchistic principles espoused by bitcoin's creator, here’s yet another clue to support the theory that the Chinese government has decided to tolerate and regulate digital currencies in hopes of learning how to apply the technology to its own digital currency.
At its core, the hypothetical “digital RMB” will subvert bitcoin’s core mission – that is, to enable individuals to circumvent government control and monitoring. Instead, Chinese policy makers intend to use the currency to strengthen the Communist Party’s ability to monitor its citizens for evidence of money laundering and other financial crimes, as MarketWatch noted earlier this year.
Of course, the PBOC’s official line is that it believes a blockchain-based digital currency would allow it to make more accurate monetary policy decisions by improving its ability to gather data on financial flows…but, as with all policies in China, maintaining social control and enforcing laws is the No. 1 priority here. People’s Bank of China Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan has said it will take China approximately 10 years to fully embrace the digital renminbi, though he said later that there is no official timeline.
To that end, the Shanghai Daily reports that the PBOC has officially launched its own blockchain research institute, and is seeking to hire engineers who to oversee the creation of what could become the first blockchain-based fiat currency.
“The People’s Bank of China’s institute of printing science is offering six positions for the design and development of digital currency-related software and hardware framework, a recruitment notice said, adding that candidates with experience in blockchain and Big Data technologies will be preferred.
The candidates must hold master’s or doctoral degree in computer science, information security and cryptography, according to the notice.”
As Cryptocoins News points out, the hiring drive comes soon after the bank’s vice-governor, Fan Yifei, published a Bloomberg column opining that the best way for governments to drive innovation of digital currencies is by creating their own, which will stay under their control. Yifei sees reduced operating costs, increased efficiency and a broad range of new applications as the many outcomes of moving from a paper-based currency to its digital form.
The creation of the institute represents an expansion on a public-private partnership sponsored by the Chinese government that was launched to explore the feasibility of creating a digital RMB. That partnership, which involves experts from Citibank and Deloitte, was first reported in early 2016. China is also already experimenting with using a blockchain-based shadow system for clearing trades in local interbank credit markets.
The PBOC isn’t the only central bank that’s exploring the feasibility of its own digital currency. The Bank of England joined with researchers at University College in London to create RSCoin, a digital currency for central banks. The Bank of Canada has also said it is developing a blockchain-based digital version of the Canadian dollar. Central banks in Russia and Australia have also expressed interest in exploring digital currencies.