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The Internationalisation of the Chinese Renminbi and China’s Digital Currency Plans


China has made major reforms to boost the international standing of its currency. The global presence of the renminbi remains contained, however. This is due to China’s economic structure (a persistent current account surplus and a partially closed financial account) and the government’s grip on the economy. China is also a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) forerunner. The digital yuan (e-cny) is already active in a large scale trial. Many claim that the e-cny could provide a major boost to the internationalisation of the renminbi. However, the internationalisation of the renminbi would require major economic reforms that cannot be bypassed by the deployment of new technologies. The e-cny is therefore unlikely to boost the renminbi’s international presence. Yet, its underlying technology could be exported to other countries wishing to deploy their own-currency CBDCs. Much like with telecommunication equipment, this scenario would put China in the position of being a provider of a critical infrastructure. In the longer run, the export of e-cny technology might also facilitate the creation alternative payment networks, though this scenario is not very likely.