Bitcoin's release a little over ten yeas ago was a relatively small event that's had huge ramifications, with some of the world's biggest companies and countries getting into cryptocurrencies.
The bitcoin price has soared over the last decade, climbing to highs of almost $20,000 per bitcoin in late 2017 before falling back sharply—but not before its massive bull run had caught the attention of many banks, retailers and tech companies.
Now, a senior official at China's central bank has said it's “almost ready” to issue its own sovereign digital currency, potentially brining the idea of bitcoin, crypto and digital currencies to China's billions of people.
The bank's potential bitcoin rival is "close to being out," Mu Changchun, deputy director of People's Bank of China (PBOC) payments department, said at an event held by China Finance 40 Forum over the weekend but stopped short of giving an exact launch date, it was first reported by Bloomberg, a financial newswire.
However, Mu Changchun also said China's digital currency would not solely rely on blockchain technology, as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies do, due to fears it wouldn't be able to handle China's vast transaction volumes.
China's PBOC has been looking into creating a bitcoin rival for the last five years, with other major central banks, including Sweden’s Riksbank, also seriously considering releasing a digital currency to begin replacing physical cash.
Mu Changchun added China's digital currency be issued by both the central bank and financial instutitons.
The bitcoin price has risen strongly so far in 2019 as bitcoin and cryptocurrency rumours swirled around some of the world's biggest technology companies.
Social media giant Facebook, micro-blogging platform Twitter, and iPhone-maker Apple have all been looking into crypto and bitcoin, with Facebook planning to release its own digital currency, libra, some time next year if it can get the world's financial regualtors onboard.
The release of China's own cryptocurrency could give the same boost to bitcoin and cryptocurrency prices that Facebook's libra plans have done.
U.S. retail giant Walmart is also reportedly looking to develop its own cryptocurrency, with some speculating that the one-time world's largest retailer could be looking to compete with Facebook's beleaguered libra project—something that many believe to be behind bitcoin's rally so far this year.
"It is without doubt that with the announcement of [Facebook's] libra, governments, regulators and central banks around the world have had to expedite their plans and approach to digital assets,” Dave Chapman, executive director at BC Technology Group, told Bloomberg, adding the likes of libra and Walmart's digital currency could "dramatically" disrupt finance and payments.
China's PBOC has said libra and similar private digital currencies would come under its oversight, potentially limiting their takeup in the country.