Although still far from dethroning the dollar, the yuan’s use as an international currency continues to grow. It is now the fifth most widely used currency in the world’s foreign exchange reserves. In May this year the IMF increased its share in its basket from 11 per cent to 12.3 per cent.
In December last year, the Chinese currency overtook the Japanese yen as the most widely used currency in international payments, expanding beyond Hong Kong and Singapore with a share of over 2.4 per cent, which even reached 3.2 per cent in January this year.
Last year, the total amount of cross-border yuan payments made by banks on behalf of their customers amounted to 36.61 trillion yuan, up 29 per cent year-on-year, reaching a record level in value terms.
In global foreign exchange reserves, the Chinese currency’s share stood at 2.88 per cent in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 1.8 percentage points since its inclusion among the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) in 2016.
At the same time, China has reduced its dependence on the dollar, selling US bonds and buying gold. In the third quarter, central banks bought 400 tonnes of gold. That is the highest level ever recorded in that period. That should make 2022 a record year, as in the first nine months of the year monetary institutions bought 673 tonnes, a volume not seen in a full year since 1967.
The purchases have come during a period of tension between China and the United States, triggered by the visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, then speaker of the House of Representatives, in early August.
China has limited access to the global financial system, as does Russia. It cannot rely on its gold and hydrocarbon sales for foreign exchange. It was its yellow metal reserves that prevented the collapse of its financial system. Between 2014 and 2020, Russia was the country that bought the most gold.
Unlike the Russian central bank, where gold accounted for 23.3 per cent of foreign exchange reserves last year, China’s central bank holds only 3.5 per cent of its reserves in gold, largely dominated by the dollar.
The country remains the second largest holder of US debt, behind Japan, with $933.6 billion. However, they have fallen by almost 11 per cent in a year. In freshumen, China sells its dollars and buys gold.
To catch up with the dollar, Beijing is also promoting the digital yuan, which would allow it to strengthen international control of its currency.
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