Forbes article on Chinese digital currency


Slug great wall

with kind permission of Helen Holmes (Instagram @TheOfficeMuse).

I wrote this article about China and digital currency for Forbes. Once it blew past 100,000 unique page views and was still being posted around on social media, I realised that the article must have touched a nerve somewhere! But the question is, what made the article so popular? Was it my brilliant analysis of the issues and the need for co-ordination between government and private sector, or was it Helen Holmes even more brilliant cartoon that precedes it!

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First among equals

The website Biblio-Fiend have listed their nine best books about the future of money and I cannot help but be a little flattered to find out that not only am I the author of two of the books on the list, this book is listed first! Here’s the full list:

The Currency Cold War.

Blockchain Bubble or Revolution by  N. Mehta, A. Agasha & P. Detroja (Paravane: 2019).

The Future of Finance by H. Arslanian & F. Fischer (Palgrave Macmillian: 2019).

Beyond Blockchain by E. Townsend (2018).

Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin by D. Birch (LPP: 2017).

The Internet of Money volumes 1-3 by A. Antonopoulos (CreateSpace: 2016).

Personal Currency by R. Colbourn & A. Riegelmann (Lionhead: 2016).

The Age of Cryptocurrency by M. Casey and P. Vigna (Macmillan:2015).

How Would You Like To Pay by B. Maurer (Duke University Press: 2015).

Needless to say, I was very flattered to be in such good company!

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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. 

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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.

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Table of Contents

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

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