Yuan’s Rise: Can It Challenge the Dollar’s Dominance?

Maya Onga Author and Columnist
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Yuan’s Rise: Can It Challenge the Dollar’s Dominance?

The global financial landscape has always been a theater of power dynamics, with currencies playing leading roles. Recently, the Brics conference stirred discussions about a new currency from its five emerging market members, aiming to challenge the US dollar’s dominance. While this idea seems to be fading, the real contender emerging from the shadows is the Chinese yuan.

Historically, the US dollar has enjoyed unparalleled dominance in the global market. Its resilience, especially during financial crises, has solidified its position as the world’s primary reserve currency. The 2008 global financial crisis is a testament to this. Despite the crisis originating in the US, the dollar’s role became even more indispensable. The Federal Reserve’s proactive measures, including extending swap lines to other central banks, prevented a total global financial meltdown. This action not only showcased the US’s financial strength but also the world’s reliance on the dollar.

European nations, for decades, have aspired to challenge this dominance. Since the 1960s, there have been hopes that the euro would rise to a position where it could rival the dollar. Leaders like Nicolas Sarkozy of France expressed desires to challenge the dollar’s role as a primary reserve and trading currency. They argued that the US’s ability to price commodities in dollars gave it undue advantages, allowing it to borrow cheaply and avoid exchange rate risks. However, despite these aspirations, the euro has faced its own set of challenges, primarily stemming from the fractured nature of the Eurozone’s government bond market and banking system.

Enter the Chinese yuan. With the US increasingly using its financial systems as tools for imposing sanctions, the yuan is emerging as a potential alternative. China’s digital payment networks are advanced, and the digital yuan is being presented as a tool to bypass US sanctions. This is a significant departure from the euro’s approach, which lacked inherent advantages over the dollar.

However, the yuan’s rise is not without challenges. The global financial system, deeply intertwined with the dollar, cannot be easily replaced piece by piece. For instance, even if transactions are settled using the yuan, the US can still impose sanctions if the transaction involves dollars. Moreover, countries might be hesitant to hold large reserves in yuan due to China’s capital controls.

Another significant concern is data privacy. With the rise of digital currencies, there are inherent risks associated with data security. China, known for its surveillance capabilities, poses a risk for users of the digital yuan. Trusting the Chinese government not to exploit personal data is a leap many might be hesitant to take.

Furthermore, China’s recent actions on the global stage raise concerns. Its economic sanctions on countries like Australia, following demands for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19, showcase its willingness to use economic power to further political goals. This behavior is reminiscent of the US’s use of its financial systems for imposing sanctions, a strategy that has been criticized globally.

So, where does this leave the global financial landscape? The US dollar, with its historical strength and resilience, is not going anywhere soon. The idea of a Brics currency challenging the dollar seems far-fetched at best. However, the yuan, with China’s economic might behind it, is a contender that cannot be ignored.

But for the yuan to truly challenge the dollar, China needs to address its internal challenges. Under Xi Jinping, China is grappling with its economic model and is becoming increasingly authoritative, both domestically and internationally. These actions do not inspire confidence in its currency.

In conclusion, the global currency dynamics are in flux. The US dollar’s position, while strong, is being questioned. The Chinese yuan is rising, but it has its own set of challenges to overcome. As the world becomes more interconnected, the need for a stable, reliable global reserve currency becomes even more critical. Whether the yuan can rise to that challenge remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: the days of unchallenged dollar dominance might be numbered.