In a new working paper, ‘The Renminbi and Systemic Risk’, I argue that the internationalization of China’s currency, the renminbi (‘RMB’), is arising in ways that depart considerably from historical precedent and what ‘law and macroeconomic’ theory would predict. Instead of waiting for international markets for its currency to evolve organically, the Chinese government has undertaken a quasi-mercantilist strategy designed to promote the currency and its own national RMB-based infrastructure. This strategy has emphasized tightly managed capital account deregulation over prudential reforms and robust market supervision, and incentivizes foreign jurisdictions to compete for RMB-based transactions.

China’s monetary strategy introduces novel systemic risks to the global financial system, including a potentially inadequate provision of renminbi liquidity, a regulatory race to the bottom between offshore RMB-hubs, and significant transmission belts of financial risk to even non-renminbi markets. To mitigate these risks, this article outlines a policy recipe of stronger macroprudential oversight, transparent countercyclical capital account reforms and credible commitments to refrain from competitive currency devaluations.

Chris Brummer is a Professor of Law and the Faculty Director of Georgetown's Institute of International Economic Law.