China Flooding Exposed Risks in Beijing’s Plan to Launch Digital Currency

Heavy summer rains knocked out cellphone service, leaving many people who don’t carry cash unable to pay with popular apps

The financial interruption was a relatively brief, but stark, illustration of a risk nations may face by adopting digital currencies—money dependent on working cellphones. Add cellular reliability to hacks of digital wallets and online exchanges as vulnerabilities as governments get into the volatile sphere until now occupied by bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

The kind of shock experienced during the floods would wreak havoc on any modern digital economy. In Zhengzhou, online maps didn’t work and electric cars shorted out. An electronic version of the yuan will only deepen China’s embrace of technology. An increasingly cashless society has already caused societal problems like elderly people being practically unable to hail taxis without the right apps.

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