Digital Yuan Concerns for U.S. Olympic Athletes

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  • Three U.S. lawmakers have written to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to request that athletes do not use the digital yuan at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing
  • The senators are concerned about the tracking powers of the new currency
  • Banning U.S. athletes from using a certain currency may be construed as authoritarian in itself

U.S. lawmakers are so concerned over the impact of the digital yuan on their athletes during the 2022 Beijing Winter Games that they have written to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to request that athletes do not use the new digital currency. The 2022 winter games have long been earmarked as the launchpad for the digital yuan following years of testing, but U.S. politicians are in no mood to celebrate due to their concerns over the Chinese state’s ability to track users of the currency, even once they have left the region and are no longer using it.

Digital Yuan Has “Problematic Privacy Implications”

The letter, written to U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee board chair Susanne Lyons by Republican senators Marsha Blackburn, Roger Wicker, and Cynthia Lummis, contains warnings over the true rationale behind China’s use of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) and urges the committee to “forbid” American athletes from using it:

…Olympic athletes should be aware that the digital yuan may be used to surveil Chinese citizens and those visiting China on an unprecedented scale, with the hopes that they will maintain digital yuan wallets on their smartphones and continue to use it upon return. The integration of China’s digital currency into global commerce has many problematic privacy implications.

As the letter notes, a digital yuan has been in the works since 2014 but development and rollout has increased significantly in recent months, with real world trials taking place ahead of the 2022 winter games in Beijing.

Is Banning a Currency Legal?

It can be no accident that an authoritarian country such as China is so keen on developing a form of money that allows it to spy on its citizens, and so the concerns from the senators are not unfounded. However, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee may not be too keen to announce an outright ban, seeing as this might be construed, ironically, as authoritarian behaviour in stopping athletes from transacting in whichever legal form of currency they choose. Only if the issue is considered one of national security will they be allowed to pursue such action.