The virtual world seems to be making inroads into
reality, though there are signs that the government is fighting back.
In the latest wrinkle in the fabric separating reality from virtual reality,
virtual money is being exchanged for real yuan on a booming scale. The practice
is so widespread that it has raised concerns that virtual money could challenge
the renminbi's status as the only legitimate currency in
The QQ All-in-One Card
is issued by Tencent and China Merchants Bank in Hangzhou, Zhejiang
Province, on November 8, 2005. [newsphoto]
Last month, the country's top financial and Internet regulatory officials
made repeated public statements about how they were weighing different proposals
to manage the virtual economy.
Tencent, China's largest instant messaging service provider and the issuer of
the virtual Q Coin, took the message to heart and filed a lawsuit against a
website that exchanges the money in a bid to clamp down on the cross-over
The company, which is listed on the Hong
Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK 700), has not been affected by the situation, and
its stock price remains steady.
Still, analysts said the involvement of top financial regulators would only
spur the development of virtual money.
The possibility of regulatory action was first raised by Li Chao, spokesman
for the People's Bank of China (PBOC), on November 3. He said at a working conference in
Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality that virtual money had become a cause
for concern and that the PBOC would draft a regulation covering virtual
transactions next year.
A week later, Xie Zhong, deputy director of the PBOC's Payment System
Department, said the central bank was drawing up regulations, but did not reveal
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