The Chinese were the first in the world to invent paper money back in the 7th Century.
Now, more than 1,400 years later, China is again on the cusp of creating a new form of government currency that some say could pose a serious economic threat to America and the West.
"In effect, they are not cryptocurrencies, they are not so-called stable coins, in effect, they are the national physical currency of a country just represented in a digital form," said Erik Bethel, former U.S. executive director with the World Bank.
Bethel says while the world fixates on private cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Beijing is busy building a digital version of its own currency, the Yuan, also known as the Renminbi, to control its citizens and eventually threaten the dominance of the U.S. Dollar.
"They've pretty much created all of the building blocks that will allow a central bank digital currency to flourish," Bethel told CBN News.
Yaya Fanusie, a former economic and counterterrorism analyst in the CIA, says China's goal is to replace cash with a digital currency that's controlled by the communist government's central bank.
"China has said for a while that it expects to be pretty much a cashless society in the future so the idea is that cash notes, coins will no longer be around and so people will be using digital currency that's going to be in their wallets," said Yaya Fanusie, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
That digital currency will also be issued by the government bank allowing what Congressman Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says is unprecedented access to people's financial transactions.
"This will give them data on behavior and on how people spend," Rep. McCaul (R-TX) told CBN News.
And it gives Beijing the power to track that spending in real-time.
"There will be a point where the People's Bank of China, the central bank of their country, is going to be able to look, peer inside of every single transaction, what everyone does, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," warned Bethel.
This means if you are a human rights activist or a Christian, authorities can use this new technology to punish you if you engage in activities they consider anti-government.
"They got a camera everywhere, social credit system and if they get their money digitized, where there's no physical currency anymore, they will be able to track every transaction that's made with Chinese currency and they can shut you off, just shut you off if they decide they don't like who you are or what your faith is," said Sam Brownback, former US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom.
"This technological ability is something the government has never had before. It always had to go to companies and say 'ok, cut off this person,'" Fanusie explained to CBN News. "Now, the Chinese government, I think, with sort of the proverbial flip of the switch, can make people fall in line by cutting off their access to money."
Eventually, US and other foreign companies doing business in China will be required to use the government's new digital currency payment system.
"So there are competitive issues, there's even I'd say cybersecurity issues, privacy issues, you are handing over your data to the Chinese Communist Party by participating in this digital currency system," said Fanusie.
The US Dollar is the world's dominant reserve currency. China's Renminbi is number eight.
Beijing's ambition is to eventually supplant the Dollar's global dominance with the digital Yuan.
"The big concern is internationally, especially for the U.S., is in the long-term this is an important step, this is what I would call a 'Fintech', a Financial Technology Development, and the issue is that China is thinking decades in advance, it's not thinking about the next two or three years per se," Fanusie said.
This month the Communist government announced it will hand out more than $6 million worth of its digital currency to its citizens as part of a series of trials around the country.
The first test kicks off in Beijing allowing residents there to use two government bank apps to make digital payments.
China then plans to make its big digital currency splash at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Now that the world's largest authoritarian regime has launched this first-of-a-kind sovereign digital currency, some in the U.S. like Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL) worry Beijing will use this form of payment to also skirt economic sanctions.
"The Chinese government will convince countries like Burma, Iran, North Korea, and others, to do business in that Chinese digital currency, it will also allow China and those countries to work around one of our most powerful tools, which is sanctions," Waltz told CBN News recently.
Based on history, Waltz believes China is only too happy to share the technology with other rogue regimes that seek to enhance their own surveillance capabilities over their citizens.
"So that those other countries in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, can dominate their people in line with the Chinese version of government, but then that data comes back to Beijing so that they will literally, through facial recognition and voice recognition, be able to monitor the globe," said Waltz.