As the world turns its eyes to China amidst a tumultuous period in the stock market, the country’s major state-owned banks have leaped into action. Their mission? To staunch the rapid descent of the yuan and bring some semblance of stability to the currency market. This move comes in the wake of a significant downturn in China’s A shares, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite index recording its largest one-day fall since April 2022, tumbling down by 2.7%.
A Strategic Response to Currency Fluctuations
China’s approach to managing the yuan’s value in these trying times has been twofold. On the offshore front, the state banks have tightened the reins on liquidity, making it more challenging for their peers to borrow. This decision has catapulted the offshore yuan tomorrow-next forwards to a more than two-month peak, indicative of the strained liquidity conditions. Concurrently, these banks have been actively offloading U.S. dollars in the onshore spot foreign exchange market. Their goal? To shield the yuan from plummeting too rapidly. This aggressive dollar selling was particularly focused on defending the yuan at the 7.2 per dollar level.
In this intricate financial ballet, state banks frequently serve dual roles: acting on behalf of China’s central bank in the foreign exchange market, trading for themselves, or executing client orders. This multifaceted approach allows for a more controlled and effective intervention in the currency markets.
The Yuan’s Growing Influence in Africa
China’s influence extends far beyond its borders, particularly in Africa, where the Bank of China (BOC) has established a significant presence. This expansion is part of China’s broader strategy to promote the yuan as a major currency in global trade, especially in Africa. In Zambia, for instance, the BOC was the first to set up a subsidiary allowing deposits and withdrawals in yuan. This move caters to the increasing number of Chinese businesses and immigrants in the region.
The BOC’s venture in Zambia is just one piece of China’s ambitious plan to bolster the yuan’s role in international trade, particularly in Africa. This initiative aligns with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vision for the Belt and Road Initiative, aiming to strengthen economic ties using the yuan, not just with Zambia but across the continent.
China’s encouragement for using local currencies in international trade extends across various African nations. This strategy includes promoting the issuance of yuan-denominated “panda” bonds. Countries like Egypt and Kenya have shown interest in this approach, seeking alternatives to conventional borrowing methods. The issuance of these bonds represents a shift in financial dynamics, transferring the currency risk from China to its trading partners.
This shift towards the yuan in international transactions is not just a financial maneuver but also a strategic move by China to gain more foreign policy flexibility. By encouraging more trade and debt to be issued in its currency, China reduces its vulnerability to potential sanctions similar to those imposed on Russia.
African countries are increasingly recognizing the benefits of diversifying their currency risks. Trading with China in yuan, as opposed to the US dollar, offers a more balanced approach to handling their foreign exchange risks. This trend is likely to continue, with more African nations considering the issuance of panda bonds and other yuan-denominated instruments.
As we step further into 2024, the global financial landscape is witnessing a significant shift, with China at the helm steering the course. The yuan’s growing prominence in international trade, especially in Africa, underscores China’s expanding influence and the changing tides in global currency markets. With these developments, China not only bolsters its own currency but also redefines its role in the global economic arena, demonstrating that in the world of international finance, adaptability and strategic foresight are key.