In recent days my wallet has been increasingly filled with new crisp bills rather than the usual set of old tattered ones. Yesterday at the ATM, I pulled out a few hundred RMB and the bills came out looking unused and sequentially numbered. I had a few 20 RMB bills given to me as change today that were equally crisp.
What’s going on? The bank is printing new money. During Chinese New Year, 红包 (hong bao / red bag) presents are given and it’s customary to give crisp new bills instead of old ratty ones; thus, I’m guessing the Peoples Bank of China (中国人民银行 / the central bank) is printing a lot more new bills and introducing them to the various banks in China to be ready for mass withdrawals and requests for new cash.
In fact, last year during Chinese New Year, it wasn’t uncommon for ATMs and bank branches to be out of cash. As it got closer to the festival day as people would queue up for hours either taking money out as gifts or as money to take home with them over the holiday.