ADBI Working Paper Series
Since the formal launch of the renminbi trade settlement scheme in 2009, renminbi internationalization has made impressive inroads. The progress in renminbi trade settlement is especially impressive. However, Hong Kong, China’s offshore renminbi deposits failed to make significant progress as expected. The question of how far renminbi internationalization can go has become a common concern in the international financial community. This paper argues that while a contributing factor is the sheer size of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) trade and the convenience of using the renminbi for transaction settlements, exchange rate arbitrage and interest rate arbitrage matter also. Profits from arbitrages are the major driving forces of, but do not constitute a sustainable basis for, internationalization. A fundamental constraint for renminbi internationalization is the PRC’s capital controls. Before fully opening up its capital account and making the renminbi freely convertible, however, the PRC needs first to put its own house in order. Macroeconomic stability has to be achieved; the high ratio of financial leverage should be reduced; a rational and flexible interest rate structure must be created; and risk management capacity across industries should be established. Most importantly, the PRC must make the renminbi exchange rate flexible to reflect demand for and supply of foreign exchange in the market. The renminbi can and will become a major international currency eventually, but the road to internationalization is bound to be long and bumpy.