With the completion of the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and all participating athletes now in China, two members of Congress warned of the potential dangers of using digital renminbi at the event.
Coin Senator Pat Toomey sent a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday expressing concerns that the Chinese government could use these games to promote greater adoption of its central bank digital currency (CBDC ), the digital yuan. The country has been experimenting with the CBDC since April 2020, before announcing that foreign athletes and tourists will have the opportunity to use it during the Olympics.
Toomey claims that the introduction of a digital yuan among the international population could help set standards for cross-border payments, which could threaten U.S. interests. The Federal Reserve has floated the idea of issuing digital dollars, but has not yet made a decision to do so. The coin senator reportedly asked the State Department and Treasury to report on the number of foreign visitors using China's digital yuan to determine whether the Olympics rollout could provide any useful information to U.S. officials considering using the CBDC.
"The importance of staying ahead of the curve in the global digital economy and supporting new innovations such as digital currencies is an important area of strategic competition with other countries, including China," Toomey said.
Many U.S. lawmakers are lending their support to those participating in the Olympics, with some, including Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer, warning athletes at the last minute not to use the digital yuan in China. Emmer had previously called China living under "digital authoritarianism" when he proposed legislation to limit the Federal Reserve's ability to issue CBDCs.
Good luck to all the @TeamUSA athletes competing in the Olympics.Words of the wise – do. Not. Accept. Any. The numbers. Meta.
In July, a group of three senators sent a letter to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committees claiming that the country could use CBDC to spy on visiting athletes, both during the Games and when they return to the United States. The committee reportedly recommended that members of the U.S. team leave their smartphones at home and only use "burner" phones in China because the former could be infected with "malware. At the time of publication, the Team USA Instagram page continued to post its own stories and share stories from the accounts of participating athletes.
Related: COVID restrictions hinder the promotion of digital RMB for the Beijing Winter Olympics
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics is the first major testing ground for the country's CBDC among many international visitors. Since its launch nearly two years ago, transactions using the digital renminbi have totaled more than $13 billion, and by November 2021, approximately 10 million merchants will have activated digital wallets for CBDC.