The Emergence of CBDCs in Japan and the APAC Region
Written by: Amit Malik
Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) have garnered significant attention in the global financial arena, particularly within the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. From Japan to emerging economies like India and Thailand, countries across APAC are actively exploring the potential of CBDCs and their impact on the financial ecosystem. In this article, we delve into the emergence of CBDCs in Japan and the broader APAC region, examining the driving forces, trends, and their profound implications.
The Rising Interest in CBDCs
Interest in CBDCs has been steadily growing throughout APAC. This surge is evident in speeches and discussions, reflecting the region's increasing fascination with CBDCs. Figure 1 (left panel) illustrates the remarkable rise in references to CBDCs in recent years, with a broad spectrum of nations, including advanced economies and emerging markets, showing keen interest.
China, a global leader in CBDC experimentation, has played a pivotal role in propelling the CBDC narrative forward. However, it's not solely leading economies
The surge in digital currency assets in 2020-21 significantly contributed to central banks' interest in CBDCs. As the digital currency market experienced exponential growth, central banks sought alternative means of payment to counteract the volatility associated with unbacked private digital currencies. Mitigating risks to the financial system became a top priority.
Asian economies actively participated in the digital currency’s rally of 2021, witnessing substantial growth in digital currencies asset transactions and volumes (Figure 1, right panel). However, the subsequent "crypto winter" in 2022, affecting Asia and the global digital currencies market, accelerated policymakers' interest in safeguarding the payment system and ensuring consumer protection. This focus includes exploring consistent regulatory frameworks for digital currency assets and their potential integration with CBDCs in select cases.
The Executives’ Meeting of East Asia Pacific Central Banks (EMEAP), for instance, actively discusses CBDCs' implications on monetary policy operations and central bank balance sheets. Members of EMEAP, representing economies at various stages of development, tailor their CBDC designs to unique market dynamics and policy requirements.
The IMF Survey
In early 2022, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted a comprehensive survey of its country teams and authorities across the Asia-Pacific region. The survey covered a wide range of economies, including 7 advanced economies, 10 emerging market economies, 8 (Low Income Countries) LICs, and 11 PICs. Despite differences, both groups face common challenges in the CBDC landscape. The survey includes 14 case studies providing insights into the motivations and strategies of different countries within the region.
The Asia-Pacific region has long been a hub for digital innovation. The introduction of CBDCs offers the opportunity to enhance existing payments frameworks further, reducing transaction costs and increasing efficiency. CBDCs can play a pivotal role in promoting financial inclusion and stability, particularly in middle-income countries.
The IMF recognizes the importance of staying informed about these developments, as it aligns with its core mission of safeguarding macro-financial stability.
In conclusion, the emergence of CBDCs in Japan and the Asia-Pacific region represents a narrative of technological innovation, financial resilience, and cross-border collaboration. As interest in CBDCs continues to soar, driven by the digital currencies surge and the pursuit of robust financial systems, the region is poised to shape the future of digital currencies on the global stage.
As this transformative journey unfolds, stakeholders, both domestically and internationally, must closely monitor CBDC developments within the Asia-Pacific region. The implications of this financial revolution extend far beyond individual nations, impacting the global financial ecosystem. Japan's leadership in CBDC development sets a precedent for the region, offering the promise of increased financial inclusion, efficiency, and economic integration. Challenges remain, but the path towards a digital future for money is well underway across the entire APAC region.