A man pays his bill with a digital currency card at the Tong Ren Hospital on January 5, 2021. Photo: Xinhua

The digital renminbi (RMB) or the yuan, a virtual currency administered by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), has arrived in full in Shanghai.

After tests run in several other cities including Shenzhen and Suzhou, it’s now in use at the city’s Tong Ren Hospital, providing staff with an easy way to pay for their meals in the canteen, said China’s central bank. The test is the first of its kind in Shanghai. 

“We are planning to open accounts for all our 2,000 employees in January. We hope the currency can come into public use, for things like paying for appointment bookings and registrations,” hospital president Ma Jun said.

“It’s just like using a MetroCard. It’s convenient. And you know how much you’ve spent, and how much is left in your card,” Yu Yiming, a doctor of the hospital, said after he bought his meal with a digital currency card issued by the Postal Savings Bank.

The digital RMB is a new experimental currency issued and managed by China’s central bank. Its development and application will help to meet the demand for a legal currency in the digital economy, while also improving the convenience and security of retail payments. 

The PBoC and Ant Group have also been running the test in a bubble tea shop in the city’s financial center of Lujiazui. While China’s digital currency test runs are still low profile, they’re getting a good deal of global attention. 

Trademark registrations

More than 98% of trademark registrations in China were applied for online in 2020, the National Intellectual Property Administration (NIPA) said Wednesday.

During the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), China stepped up efforts to make trademark registration more convenient and strengthen the construction of trademark informatization.

In 2018, China launched an online trademark-service system that combines trademark-related inquiries, applications, announcements, online payments and registrations. By the end of 2020, the system had 178,800 registered users, 14 times as many as in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Trademark Office of the NIPA made great efforts to make the trademark adjudication documents open to the public and the trademark database freely accessible to the public. By the end of 2020, nearly 900,000 documents had been made public and more than 50 million trademark stock data had been opened free of charge. 

Foreign trade

China’s foreign trade grew by 1.9% on a yearly basis to 32.16 trillion yuan (US$4.97 trillion) in 2020, official data showed on Thursday.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the European Union, the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea remained China’s top five trading partners in 2020, while trade with economies related to the Belt and Road Initiative grew by 1% year-on-year to 9.37 trillion yuan, the General Administration of Customs said.

Despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, China has seen a notable rebound in exports in 2020, led by strong sales of pandemic control supplies and gadgets such as laptops, according to Li Kuiwen, the administration’s spokesman.

Company news

The State Administration for Market Regulation said on Thursday it had started an investigation into Vipshop (China) Co Ltd and Guangzhou Vipshop E-Commerce Co Ltd for alleged practices of unfair competition.

The move came after the authority launched an investigation in December into Alibaba for alleged monopolistic conduct, which refers to forcing merchants to sell on Alibaba’s platforms exclusively and preventing them from selling on rival e-commerce websites.

Chip manufacture Foxconn and automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group announced on Wednesday they will join hands to provide contract manufacturing for automakers.

They will each hold 50% of a venture that will also provide consulting services on electric vehicle (EV) technologies to automakers, the companies said in a statement.

The stories were compiled by Nadeem Xu and KoKo and first published at ATimesCN.com.

Xu Yuenai

Xu Yuenai is a Beijing-based columnist specializing in international relations.