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Starbucks, Subway, McDonald's expected to join Chinese digital currency pilot

(Updates with comment from Starbucks)

A digital currency pilot is set to launch in China with participation from a number of participating companies, including Starbucks, McDonald's and Subway, according to published reports. 

The People's Bank of China, which is that nation's central bank, has been working on accelerating the country's entrance into digital currencies for several years and the new program will operate in the Xiong'an New District. Pilots are also taking place in Shenzhen, Chengdu and Suzhou.

"China has consistently focused on and invested in creating its own state-backed currency, so China's proceeding to pilot stage is unsurprising," Nick Maynard, lead analyst at Juniper Research told Mobile Payments Today via email. "The participation of major retail brands demonstrates that China is trying to make the digital currency suitable for day-to-day payments, rather than transactions that other digital currencies are generally used for."

One local expert in the crypto space said the People's Bank has likely invited existing payment processors to integrate the DCEP (digital currency electronic payment) as a payment option and will invite a small set of banks to use designated apps to integrate within the system.

"In the long run, the most obvious change to the consumer will be the guaranteed interoperability between several apps, be it banks, WeChat/Alipay investment or insurance companies," Leonhard Weese, co-founder of the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong. 

A Starbucks spokesperson said the company would not be participating in the pilot, but did not provide any additional information. 

Officials at McDonald's and Subway did not return requests for comment.