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The Ascent of Digital Money

Niall Ferguson
 

By Niall Ferguson (Original source Boston Globe)

‘“How would you like to pay for that, sir?” For most of my lifetime, there have been three possible answers to that question: cash, a cheque or a plastic card. Go to Beijing, however, and you will see few transactions in those forms. People pay with their phones, using systems created by the two biggest Chinese tech companies, Alibaba and Tencent.

And not only in Beijing. For the Chinese way of paying is spreading around the world — from taxis in Tokyo to the Harvard giftshop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I think this is a big deal. Indeed, it could be a much bigger deal than China’s dominance of 5G telecommunications networks.

Since 1971, when Richard Nixon severed the last link between the dollar and gold, the world has been on a fiat monetary system (meaning the money supply is unconnected to any scarce reserve asset such as gold). Because of the size of the American economy and its dominance of financial and commodity markets, the US dollar has been the No 1 currency since that time.”

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