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US lagging on CBDCs could spell ‘trouble’ — Crypto Council policy head

A cryptocurrency researcher and former CIA analyst believes the United States government’s relatively slow start on Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) development may result in it losing grip on controlling the global financial system.

Yaya Fanusie, the policy head at the crypto advocacy group the Crypto Council for Innovation explained in a Feb. 28 Bloomberg interview that sanctioned states are looking to transact on financial infrastructure that isn’t controlled or heavily influenced by the U.S. in order to move funds more freely cross-borders.

If the U.S. continues to sit on the “sidelines” and lag behind on CBDC adoption, Fanusie believes this may spell “trouble” and cause unforeseen “geopolitical implications” over time:

Fanusie explained that state-issued CBDCs could be a part of this financial infrastructure that becomes globally adopted, and that if the U.S. has little influence over these new standards, then this “impacts U.S state economic statecraft.”

“The potency of our sanctions power comes from the centrality of the U.S. to the financial global infrastructure. So if that shifts a little bit, it doesn’t mean that China is going to take over or that the yuan is going to displace the dollar but if there’s a viable new rail where sanctioned actors can now transact, that’s trouble.”

The U.S. Federal Reserve has however recently made progress on its CBDC — the Digital Dollar Project — having released the latest version of its whitepaper on Jan. 18:

However, the Federal Reserve has not received approval from the U.S. government to proceed with the CBDC project.

Fanusie highlighted that China has benefited from a near-first mover advantage, having explored CBDCs since 2014 and launching the pilot version of its digital yuan (e-CNY) on Jan. 4, 2022, which Fanusie says has processed “millions of transactions” across “millions of wallets” so far.

Fanusie added that there is an “array of pilots” testing out smart contracts to add programmability into the CBDC and that China helping other countries adopt similar standards.

He added there is possibly an unspoken “race” going on in the CBDC frontier as nations look to gain a geopolitical edge.

“That’s happening whether we want to like it or not.”

However previous commentators on the CBDC race between China and the U.S. have said that China’s CBDC ambition is purely about domestic dominance rather than trying to beat the U.S. dollar.

Related: What are CBDCs? A beginner’s guide to central bank digital currencies

CBDCs run on state-controlled ledgers, which are reported to be more efficient and easier to use in some cases than decentralized public networks, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

However, some opponents of CBDCs believe states are adopting blockchain-powered CBDCs to maintain a degree of financial control over their citizens.

Part of the pushback in the U.S. recently came from pro-crypto U.S. Congressman Tom Emmer, who recently introduced the CBDC Anti-Surveillance State Act in an effort to protect the financial privacy of U.S. citizens from actions by the Federal Reserve: