How China Is Succeeding in Its Plan to Make Renminbi a Reserve Currency

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The arc of history may be bending toward China and its currency, the renminbi, which is rising to ever greater prominence on a regional and world stage. And it's no accident -- it's part of a plan has been in the works for a while.

One way of thinking about how China operates versus the United States is that China thinks in terms of decades whereas the U.S. has a focus of one-to-three years. Consequently, projects that China works on are often hidden within the shadows of current events and tend to be ignored until they surface into reality. Some of those projects are now coming to light.

Recently, there has been the implementation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that has attracted many United States allies even though US officials counseled against them joining the organization. The AIIB will compete against already existing Asian institutions that have had the backing of western countries.

In addition there is the effort by China's president, Xi Jinping, to initiate a "One Belt, One Road" program that is intended, in its simplest form, to expand and secure trade routes to the Middle East and Europe to enhance greater trade with these areas. A further discussion of this effort can be found in an article threateningly titled "Now China Starts to Make the Rules."

Phillip Stephens, the author of the piece, closes with "the important thing about all the initiatives is that China intends to set the parameters. As the London-based consultancy Trusted Sources puts it, Beijing is harnessing all its economic, financial and diplomatic muscle to drive a process of Eurasian integration from its own border to the Middle East, Africa and Europe." He adds, "Beijing intends to be a rule-maker as much as a rule-taker," in the world.

And this brings us back to the renminbi. China's plan to have its currency become a global reserve currency is accelerating. Recently the International Monetary Fund has declared that the renminbi is no longer undervalued. This has tremendous significance because it removes one of the hurdles for it to become an official reserve along with the U.S. dollar, the euro, and the Japanese yen.

As this is happening, the Chinese are making moves "to make it easier for individuals and companies to invest overseas." Lingling Wei, in the Wall Street Journal, comments that this will allow many Chinese individuals and businesses to purchase stocks, bonds and real estate in foreign markets.

This can be huge as it opens up the world to greater capital flows that enhance globalization, but also creates the possibility of greater volatility and risk, something that Chinese leaders are very concerned about. This is why Wei states that this initiative will be done by China with care and patience. This freeing up of capital flows is a necessary component of the renminbi becoming fully accepted as a reserve currency.

What is obvious is that these carefully planned, long thought out Chinese initiatives are working in terms of raising China's global stature economically -- and in turning the renminbi into a global currency. Current data reported by James Kynge in the Financial Times indicate that the renminbi has overtaken other currencies in payments between China and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region.

Over the past three years the use of the renminbi has tripled and has exceeded the use of the Japanese Yen, the U.S. dollar, and the Hong Kong dollar. This information, Kynge writes, indicates "the renminbi's gathering acceptance as a currency for international trade settlement and investment."

The rising position of the renminbi has come primarily at the expense of the U.S. dollar.

Consistent with the Chinese move to open up overseas investment, the data indicate that "increasingly it is investment rather than trade that drives the renminbi's popularity."

All this is taking place as the United States struggles with a faltering economy and a currency that is strong solely because U.S. monetary policy is less expansive than that being followed in Europe and many other central banks around the world.

If the Chinese continue along the path they seem to be moving on, the United States is going to be faced with some very hard decisions in the future. People that use a currency want to feel secure that the value of the currency will not decline.

The value of the U.S. dollar has declined in value for the past sixty years or so and the United States has been able to get away with this currency depreciation because of its unique position as the only reserve currency in the world during this time.

The Chinese seem to be on the move and they will be relentless in promoting their currency in the world. In doing so, they will be promoting a strong currency, one that retains its value over time. This appears to be the main thrust of their efforts.

The United States, on the other hand, has not prepared itself for such a challenge and has, as far as anyone can tell, no plans to combat such a threat.

Its not that the world could not survive with two or even three major reserve currencies, counting the euro. The potential problem is that strong currencies that maintain their value replace weak currencies that continue to depreciate in value. And the Chinese understand this.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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