Can Digital Yuan Challenge US Dollar's Dominance in International Finance?

China's central bank is testing its digital currency in several major Chinese cities. The chairman of US Federal Reserve has recently confirmed that the US Central Bank is working on digital dollar. The State Bank of Pakistan announced in 2019 that it was developing a digital currency. It seems that the popularity of Bitcoin has triggered serious worries of loss of control of the official financial systems among the central bankers around the world. China's substantial lead in digital currency could put it far ahead of the US in the future of global payments and financial settlement. It could eventually displace the US dollar and provide China with the immense global financial power that the US currently enjoys. 

Digital Yuan


Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC):

What Is a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)?  Investopedia defines it as a digital currency that "uses a blockchain-based token to represent the digital form of a fiat currency of a particular nation (or region)". A CBDC is centralized; it is issued and regulated by the  country's Central Bank. Unlike decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, a CBDC would be centralized and regulated by a country's monetary authority.  


Motivations for such currencies are many, but the key one is to maintain control of the national and global finance. Another worry is that the use of unregulated digital currencies like Bitcoin could enable serious domestic and international crimes. It could also make tax evasion easier and hurt governments' ability to support public expenditure on education, healthcare, physical infrastructure, public safety, national defense and other priorities. 

Digital Yuan:

The People’s Bank of China, the Chinese Central Bank, is testing its e-yuan digital currency in Shanghai, Chengdu and other major cities. It has filed more than 100 patent applications for its digital currency. Reports indicate that the experiments are going smoothly, and soon people will have the option of downloading a government-issued digital wallet. Unlike commercial payment processors such as WeChat Pay and Alipay, the official Chinese version will be equivalent to an account at the central bank with the same guarantee as hard cash, according to The Economist magazine. 

China is far ahead of of the rest of the world, including the United States in the development of a central bank-backed digital currency (CBDC). This could put it far ahead in the future of global payments and financial settlement. It could eventually displace the dollar and provide China with the immense global financial power that the US currently enjoys. 

China has set up a partnership with SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial System, that manages the global system for cross-border payments, through its digital currency research institute and clearing center.    SWIFT is a major vehicle for the United States to enforce its unilateral sanctions on countries like Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. 

Digital Dollar: 

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell have confirmed last week that they are working on digital dollar as a high-priority project. 

US Treasury Secretary Janel Yellen has been quoted by the media as saying: “I gather that people at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston are working with researchers at MIT to study the properties of it. We do have a problem with financial inclusion. Too many Americans really don’t have access to easy payment systems and bank accounts. This is something that a digital dollar, a central bank digital currency, could help with. I think it could result in faster, safer and cheaper payments.”  

Digital Rupee: 

A top official of the State Bank of Pakistan, the nation's central bank, announced in April 2019 that the institution aims to issue a digital currency (Central Bank Digital Currency or CBDC) by 2025, according to media reports.   Speaking at the launch of regulations of Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs), central bank officials said that EMIs will be non-bank entities to be licensed by the central bank to issue e-money for the purpose of digital payments. Pakistan's finance minister Asad Umar and the central bankers said they are targeting Pakistan's economy to go fully digital by 2030.

More recently, the State Bank of Pakistan launched Raast, a digital payment system.  It is essentially a pipe that is intended to connect government and financial institutions with consumers and merchants with each other to process payments instantly at very low cost. Raast will be boosted by Pakistan government's decision to use it to pay salaries, pensions and pay welfare recipients under Benazir Income Support and Ehsaas Emergency Cash programs. 

Raast digital payment infrastructure represents a great leap forward for the use of financial technology (FinTech) and financial inclusion in the  country.  It will also promote e-commerce in Pakistan. Undocumented economy poses a serious threat to the country because it creates opportunities for criminal activities and tax evasion.  Raast is part of the government's effort to modernize payment systems and document the nation's cash-based informal economy. 

America's Global Financial Power: 

There's a common perception that the United State is abusing its extraordinary financial power to arbitrarily punish countries through its unilateral financial sanctions. This power stems mainly from the fact that the US dollar is the main international reserve and trade currency. It allows US to control multi-lateral financial institutions like SWIFT, World Bank, IMF and FATF. Many countries, including major US allies in Europe, are now looking to find alternatives to SWIFT. This has been specially true since former US President Donald Trump existed the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) agreed among the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5) plus Germany. Here's an excerpt of a recent New York op ed by Peter Beinart: 

"By deluding themselves about the extent of America’s might, they are depleting it. A key source of America’s power is the dollar, which serves as the reserve currency for much of the globe. It’s because so many foreign banks and businesses conduct their international transactions in dollars that America’s secondary sanctions scare them so much. But the more Washington wields the dollar to bully non-Americans into participating in our sieges, the greater their incentive to find an alternative to the dollar. The search for a substitute is already accelerating. And the fewer dollars non-Americans want, the harder Americans will find it to keep living beyond their means."

 
Summary:

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CDBDs) are gaining momentum with the talk of digital yuan and digital dollar. Motivations for such currencies are many, but the key one is to maintain control of the national and global trade and financial systems. If successful, these new currencies and associated payment systems could challenge the global financial power of the United States and fundamentally transform banking as we know it. 

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
#China Charges Ahead With a National #Digital Currency. Some economists said China’s digital currency would also make it easier for the renminbi to compete with the #US dollar as a global #currency because it can move internationally with fewer barriers. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/01/technology/china-national-digital-currency.html?smid=tw-share


The electronic Chinese yuan is now being tested in cities such as Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing. No other major power is as far along with a homegrown digital currency.

Annabelle Huang recently won a government lottery to try China’s latest economics experiment: a national digital currency.

After joining the lottery through the social media app WeChat, Ms. Huang, 28, a business strategist in Shenzhen, received a digital envelope with 200 electronic Chinese yuan, or eCNY, worth around $30. To spend it, she went to a convenience store near her office and picked out some nuts and yogurt. Then she pulled up a QR code for the digital currency from inside her bank app, which the store scanned for payment.

“The journey of how you pay, it’s very similar” to that of other Chinese payments apps, Ms. Huang said of the eCNY experience, though she added that it wasn’t quite as smooth.

China has charged ahead with a bold effort to remake the way that government-backed money works, rolling out its own digital currency with different qualities than cash or digital deposits. The country’s central bank, which began testing eCNY last year in four cities, recently expanded those trials to bigger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, according to government presentations.

The effort is one of several by central banks around the world to try new forms of digital money that can move faster and give even the most disadvantaged people access to online financial tools. Many countries have taken action as cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which has recently soared in value, have become more popular.

But while Bitcoin was designed to be decentralized so that no company or government could control it, digital currencies created by central banks give governments more of a financial grip. These currencies can enable direct handouts of money that expire if not used by a particular date and can make it easier for governments to track financial transactions to stamp out tax evasion and crack down on dissidents.

Over the last 12 months, more than 60 countries have experimented with national digital currencies, up from just over 40 a year earlier, according to the Bank for International Settlements. The countries include Sweden, which is conducting real-world trials of a digital krona, and the Bahamas, which has made a digital currency, the Sand Dollar, available to all citizens.

In contrast, the United States has moved slowly and done just basic research. At a New York Times event last week, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen indicated that might change when she said an American digital currency was “absolutely worth looking at” because it “could result in faster, safer and cheaper payments.”
Riaz Haq said…
#China, #Pakistan reiterate commitment to #infrastructure development plan on the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties & strong mutual friendship. So far, 46 of 70 planned #CPEC projects have been completed, with a combined investment of US$25.4 billion. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3123925/china-pakistan-reiterate-commitment-infrastructure-development?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=share_widget&utm_campaign=3123925

China and Pakistan should continue to support their multibillion-dollar infrastructure development programme, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday, despite the scheme becoming a focus for regional tensions and concerns about its financial viability.
“We must persist in creating a mutually beneficial and win-win situation,” the foreign ministry quoted Wang as saying during a video chat with his Pakistani counterpart, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The call was made to mark the 70th anniversary of the countries establishing diplomatic relations.
“The two sides should firmly promote the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor [CPEC], creating new growth points in areas including industry, agriculture, science and technology, people’s livelihoods and third-party cooperation, further enhancing Pakistan’s sustainable development capability,” Wang said.

Launched in 2013, the CPEC is an offshoot of the Belt and Road Initiative – Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pet project to boost trade and infrastructure links across Asia and beyond – and comprises a network of roads, railways, ports, power plants, oil and gas pipelines and optical fibre cables.

Though often valued at US$62 billion, only about US$25 billion worth of CPEC projects have so far been developed.
Wang said that 46 of 70 planned CPEC projects had been completed, with a combined investment of US$25.4 billion. The scheme had achieved “satisfactory results” and created job opportunities in Pakistan, he said

Qureshi said Pakistan fully supported China’s belt and road plan and described the CPEC as a prime example of its “high-quality development”, according to a report by Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.


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The CPEC has strategic significance for China as it provides an alternative route for importing oil and gas from the Middle East. But Delhi is worried that Gwadar Port – a CPEC project on Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast – will be used as a base for the Chinese navy.
Wang said China and Pakistan should expand their strategic partnership and uphold multilateralism.
“We should firmly hold that all countries have equal status regardless of their size while opposing hegemonism and power politics,” he said.
“We should deepen political mutual trust. Both sides should continue to firmly support each other on issues involving each other‘s core interests and major concerns.”
Riaz Haq said…
#Biden's #China Policy: #US “should put less focus on trying to slow China down and more emphasis on trying to run faster ourselves”. #America's common anti-China policy with #Japan, #SouthKorea, #India and #Australia #geopolitics #Quad #Asia #IndoPacific https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/17/us/politics/us-china-relations.html

President Biden is engineering a sharp shift in policy toward China, focused on gathering allies to counter Beijing’s coercive diplomacy around the world and ensuring that China does not gain a permanent advantage in critical technologies.

At first glance, it seems to adopt much of the Trump administration’s conviction that the world’s two biggest powers are veering dangerously toward confrontation, a clear change in tone from the Obama years.

But the emerging strategy more directly repudiates the prevailing view of the last quarter century that deep economic interdependence could be counted on to temper fundamental conflicts on issues like China’s military buildup, its territorial ambitions and human rights.

It focuses anew on competing more aggressively with Beijing on technologies vital to long-term economic and military power, after concluding that President Donald J. Trump’s approach — a mix of expensive tariffs, efforts to ban Huawei and TikTok, and accusations about sending the “China virus” to American shores — had failed to change President Xi Jinping’s course.

The result, as Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, put it during the campaign last year, is an approach that “should put less focus on trying to slow China down and more emphasis on trying to run faster ourselves” through increased government investment in research and technologies like semiconductors, artificial intelligence and energy.

Mr. Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will road-test the new approach in what promises to be a tense first encounter on Thursday with their Chinese counterparts in Anchorage. It is a meeting they delayed until they could reach the outlines of a common strategy with allies — notably Japan, South Korea, India and Australia — and one they insisted had to take place on American soil.

But it will also be a first demonstration of Beijing’s determination to stand up to the new administration, and a chance for its diplomats to deliver a litany of complaints about Washington’s “evil” interference in China’s affairs, as a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman put it on Wednesday.

The United States imposed sanctions on 24 Chinese officials on Wednesday for undermining Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms, an action whose timing was pointed and clearly intentional. Mr. Blinken said in Tokyo this week that “we will push back if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way.”

And that is happening almost daily, he conceded, including Beijing’s efforts to terminate Hong Kong’s autonomy, intimidate Australia and Taiwan, and move ahead, despite international condemnation, with what Mr. Blinken has said is a “genocide” aimed at China’s Uyghur minority.

It is all part of the initial resetting of the relationship that has marked Mr. Biden’s renewed, if now far more tense, encounters with Mr. Xi.

Back when Mr. Biden was vice president and Mr. Xi was consolidating power on his way to becoming China’s most powerful leader in decades, the two men met in China and the United States and offered public assurances that confrontation was not inevitable.

The intelligence assessment inside the American government at the time was that Mr. Xi would proceed cautiously, focus on economic development at home and avoid direct confrontation with the United States.
Riaz Haq said…
Global Trends 2040 "A More Contested World": Why #US #Spy Agencies Say the Future Is Bleak as Competition with #China Ratchets up in the Next 20 years. #Climatechange, #technology, #pandemics and #financial crises will pose big challenges for the world. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/15/opinion/global-trends-intelligence-report.html

The world envisioned in the 144-page report, ominously subtitled “A More Contested World,” is rent by a changing climate, aging populations, disease, financial crises and technologies that divide more than they unite, all straining societies and generating “shocks that could be catastrophic.” The gap between the challenges and the institutions meant to deal with them continues to grow, so that “politics within states are likely to grow more volatile and contentious, and no region, ideology, or governance system seems immune or to have the answers.” At the international level, it will be a world increasingly “shaped by China’s challenge to the United States and Western-led international system,” with a greater risk of conflict.

Here’s how agencies charged with watching the world see things:

“Large segments of the global population are becoming wary of institutions and governments that they see as unwilling or unable to address their needs. People are gravitating to familiar and like-minded groups for community and security, including ethnic, religious, and cultural identities as well as groupings around interests and causes, such as environmentalism.”

“At the same time that populations are increasingly empowered and demanding more, governments are coming under greater pressure from new challenges and more limited resources. This widening gap portends more political volatility, erosion of democracy, and expanding roles for alternative providers of governance.”

“Accelerating shifts in military power, demographics, economic growth, environmental conditions, and technology, as well as hardening divisions over governance models, are likely to further ratchet up competition between China and a Western coalition led by the United States.”

“At the state level, the relationships between societies and their governments in every region are likely to face persistent strains and tensions because of a growing mismatch between what publics need and expect and what governments can and will deliver.”

Experts in Washington who have read these reports said they do not recall a gloomier one. In past years, the future situations offered have tilted toward good ones; this year, the headings for how 2040 may look tell a different story: “Competitive Coexistence,” “Separate Silos,” “Tragedy and Mobilization” or “A World Adrift,” in which “the international system is directionless, chaotic, and volatile as international rules and institutions are largely ignored by major powers like China, regional players and non-state actors.”

There is one cheery scenario thrown in, “Renaissance of Democracies,” in which the United States and its allies are leading a world of resurgent democracies, and everybody is getting happier. Its apparent purpose is to show that people could, in principle, turn things around. But nothing in the report suggests it is likely.

The gloom, however, should not come as a surprise. Most of what Global Trends provides are reminders of the dangers we know and the warnings we’ve heard. We know that the world was ill prepared for the coronavirus and that the pandemic was grievously mishandled in most parts of the world, including the United States. We know the Arctic caps are melting at a perilous rate, raising sea levels and threatening dire consequences the world over. We know that for all the grand benefits of the internet, digital technology has also unleashed lies, conspiracies and distrust, fragmenting societies and poisoning political discourse. We know from the past four years what polarized and self-serving rule is like. We know that China is on the rise, and that it is essential to find a manageable balance between containment and cooperation.
Riaz Haq said…
China is now applying calculated doses of pain to shock Westerners into realizing the old, #American-led order is ending. #Chinese foreign policy chief lectured American diplomats in #Alaska. Then #China sanctioned #British, #Canadian & #EU politicians https://www.economist.com/china/2021/04/03/china-is-betting-that-the-west-is-in-irreversible-decline

Its gaze fixed on the prize of becoming rich and strong, China has spent the past 40 years as a risk-averse bully. Quick to inflict pain on smaller powers, it has been more cautious around any country capable of punching back. Recently, however, China’s risk calculations have seemed to change. First Yang Jiechi, the Communist Party’s foreign-policy chief, lectured American diplomats at a bilateral meeting in Alaska, pointing out the failings of American democracy. That earned him hero status back home. Then China imposed sanctions on British, Canadian and European Union politicians, diplomats, academics, lawyers and democracy campaigners. Those sweeping curbs were in retaliation for narrower Western sanctions targeting officials accused of repressing Muslims in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

China’s foreign ministry declares that horrors such as the Atlantic slave trade, colonialism and the Holocaust, as well as the deaths of so many Americans and Europeans from covid-19, should make Western governments ashamed to question China’s record on human rights. Most recently Chinese diplomats and propagandists have denounced as “lies and disinformation” reports that coerced labour is used to pick or process cotton in Xinjiang. They have praised fellow citizens for boycotting foreign brands that decline to use cotton from that region. Still others have sought to prove their zeal by hurling Maoist-era abuse. A Chinese consul-general tweeted that Canada’s prime minister was “a running dog of the us”.

Such performance-nationalism is watched by Western diplomats in Beijing with dismay. Envoys have been summoned for late-night scoldings by Chinese officials, to be informed that this is not the China of 120 years ago when foreign armies and gunboats forced the country’s last, tottering imperial dynasty to open the country wider to outsiders. Some diplomats talk of living through a turning-point in Chinese foreign policy. History buffs debate whether the moment more closely resembles the rise of an angry, revisionist Japan in the 1930s, or that of Germany when steely ambition led it to war in 1914. A veteran diplomat bleakly suggests that China’s rulers view the West as ill-disciplined, weak and venal, and are seeking to bring it to heel, like a dog.

In Washington and other capitals it is not hard to hear voices suggesting that China is making rash, clumsy mistakes. Surely China sees that it is souring public opinion across the West, they murmur. There is puzzlement about how China now views its recent draft accord with the European Union, the Comprehensive Investment Agreement, which it had appeared so eager to conclude. That pact’s ratification by the European Parliament is now on ice, and possibly entombed in permafrost, as a result of China’s sanctions on several Euro-legislators.

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