China’s decision to cut the weighting of the US dollar in a basket of foreign currencies used to determine the strength of the yuan will help Beijing’s long-term efforts to weaken the international dominance of the American currency, economists said.
The China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS), a unit of the Chinese central bank, trimmed the weighting of the US dollar on Wednesday to 21.59 per cent from 22.40 per cent in a key yuan exchange index to make it “more representative” of current trade conditions.
The new version of the index will be based on 2018 trade data, rather than data from 2015, when the CFETS was first established.The move, which comes amid heightened trade tensions between China and the United States, will help Beijing’s long-term efforts to create an alternative international payments system, economists said.
The yuan hopes to become a reserve currency, to prevent the situation where the US dollar dominates the global financial system – or the so-called hegemony of the US dollar. – Shen Jianguan
“The yuan hopes to become a reserve currency, to prevent the situation where the US dollar dominates the global financial system – or the so-called hegemony of the US dollar. This is a longer-term goal … and an inevitable trend,” said Shen Jianguan, vice-president and chief economist at JD Digits, although he added that the adjustment also reflected changes to China’s trading environment.
His remarks were echoed by Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at China Industrial Bank, who said the cut would give the yuan marginally more independence against the US dollar.
“The yuan should live its own way – now there is too much shadow from other [currencies] hanging over it,” he said.
The US dollar still has the heaviest weighting in the CFETS index, while the value of the euro has been expanded to 17.40 per cent from 16.34 per cent. The weighting of the Hong Kong dollar fell to 3.57 per cent from 4.28 per cent.
China still relied heavily on the US dollar and should look to expand the number of foreign currencies that can be directly exchanged with the yuan, Lu said. Beijing has been locked in a bitter tariff war with Washington for the past 18 months, which has hit bilateral trade and sparked fears about decoupling between the world’s two largest economies.