It’s Digital Currency Time

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I was interviewed by Penny Crossman for an American Banker podcast. Just as steam engines came along when it was steam engine time (all of the technologies and resources had been around for a while), so now it’s digital currency time.

The Safello Show

I’ll be discussing “The Currency Cold War” live on The Safello Show with Frank Schuil on Monday 1st June 2020.

Launch Webinar with Wordline

The wonderful people at Wordline are hosting a webinar to launch this  book on an unsuspecting world. And it's FREE! And you can win copies of the book by asking a question! What are they like! I'll be having a conversation about digital currency and what it might mean with Nicolas Kozakiewicz, the Chief Innovation Officer at Worldline (and a very smart guy, so you should ask him tough questions too). Monday 18th May at 5pm CET be there or be square, as the kids say.

It’s Here!

It’s here!

Chinese Digital Currency Goes Into Beta

Well, this is quite exciting. The first reports have appeared concerning the Digital Currency/Electronic Payment (DC/EP) system being tested in four cities: Shenzen, , Chengdu, Suzhou and Xiong’an. Xiong’an is the recently-established “development hub” near Beijing and it is where the “non-core” functions of the Chinese state are going to be relocated to.

DC/EP is the Chinese Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). What I thought most noticeable about the first implementations (this is from the Agricultural Bank of China, ABC) is that they include the person-to-person offline transfer functionality. This, as the Deputy Governor of the People’s Bank of China, Fan Yifei, said in an interview to Central Banking magazine, is so that thenew system "could attain a similar function of currency to cash… The public could use it directly for various purchases, and it would prove conducive to the yuan’s circulation".


with the kind permission of @molllliy

As I note in the book, this makes DC/EP look more like Mondex than Libra, so I was surprised to see the digital Yuan labelled “crypto-inspired” on Twitter!

MIT Right and Wrong

In the MIT Technology Review “10 Breakthrough Technologies for 2020”, digital money is correctly identified as one of the most important technologies of the year. It really is, and not only for financial reasons. Their article says that

the rise of digital currency has massive ramifications for financial privacy

Indeed it does but, as I suggest in the book, we can make design choices about how digital money works to “set the dial” on privacy.  So I think that the privacy issues can be managed. But what really caught my eye in the MIT piece was the closing statement that  the "digital money wars have begun”.

This may seem hyberolic, but it really isn’t, which is why I wrote this book.

As to who might win these wars, well, who knows. The truth is that after writing this book I don’t know any more than anyone else knows. I can say that I doubt that Libra is the future of digital money (many observers noted that Mark Zuckererg’s Vision for 2030 that was published on Facebook in January 2020, did not mention Libra at all) but it has certainly been a catalyst for thinking about the future of digital money. What I am more certain about is that there are some people who take the notion of this coming digital money war seriously, have a strategy for the battles to come and a long-term plan to win it. 

The Digital Currency Revolution

My report for the London-based future of finance think-thank the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation (CSFI) has been published. It’s called “The Digital Currency Revolution” and you can download it for free from their web site.

Niall Ferguson “Cold War 2"

If you want to understand some of the big picture around the coronavirus, currency and what the Hoover Institution senior fellow Niall Ferguson refers to as “Cold War 2” (but what I call "The Currency Cold War”) then have a listen to this podcast from CoinDesk. It is a wide ranging conversation between Ferguson and CoinDesk's Michael Casey about our disrupted world, inevitable crisis and what it could mean for money. As the author of one of the best books on the history of finance, The Ascent of Money, Ferguson has a very wide and well-informed perspective on the issues and indeed I quote him more than once in this book.

One of Ferguson’s central points is that the US depends to a greater extent than people realise on the US dollar being the international reserve currency. As he says in the podcast, the US has "an almost unlimited capability" to borrow in its own currency because the dollar is so dominant nand that "we are going to have a period of challenges to the US dollar of various forms and tenacious defence of its dominance by a US government that understands its existential importance to the United States”. This is the coming currency Cold War and it will shape international order far beyond finance.

Table of Contents Announced

The table of contents for the hardback edition of the book that will be published in May 2020 will be as follows:


Part 1: Digital Currency

Chapter 1: What is Digital Currency?

Chapter 2: Technology as Catalyst

Chapter 3: Anyone can Make Money

Part 2. Drivers for Change

Chapter 4: What Problem will Digital Currency Fix?

Chapter 5: Rethinking Money

Chapter 6: Creating Digital Fiat

Part 3. Currency Cold Wars are Coming

Chapter 7: Private Digital Currency

Chapter 8: Public Digital Currency

Chapter 9: Red vs. Blue

Coda: A Call to Action

The Currency Cold War is Coming in May 2020

David G.W. Birch’s new book on digital currency will be published by the London Publishing Partnership in May 2020.

© David G.W. Birch 2020