About This Source - Bloomberg QuickTake: Now
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Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Digital Currency Gives China a New Tool to Strike Back at Critics” – below is their description.
Digital yuan is giving China a new tool to strike back at critics. The country has recently sought ways to counteract U.S. sanctions after the Trump administration targeted Chinese officials and companies over policies from the South China Sea to Xinjiang. Hong Kong’s leader can’t access a bank account and a top executive at Huawei Technologies Co. is detained in Canada. Even China’s state-run banks are complying with U.S. sanctions.
That’s one reason the Biden administration is starting to study whether China’s development of a digital currency will make it harder for the U.S. to enforce sanctions, Bloomberg reported earlier this month. The digital yuan, which could see a wider roll out at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, is also spurring the U.S. to consider creating a digital dollar.
But instead of challenging U.S. dollar dominance and neutralizing sanctions, the digital yuan appears potentially more geopolitically significant as leverage over multinational companies and governments that want access to China’s 1.4 billion consumers. Since China has the ability to monitor transactions involving the digital currency, it may be easier to retaliate against anyone who rebuffs Beijing on sensitive issues like Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
“If you think that the United States has a lot of power through our Treasury sanctions authorities, you ain’t seen nothing yet,” Matt Pottinger, former U.S. deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration, said last week at a hearing of the government-backed U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “That currency can be turned off like a light switch.”
So far China has mostly resisted hitting foreign firms in response to U.S. actions on companies like Huawei, holding off on releasing an “unreliable entity list” designed to punish anyone who damages national security. Any move to cut off access to the digital yuan would carry similarly high stakes, potentially prompting foreign investors to pack up and leave.
But Beijing has gone after companies like Hennes & Mauritz AB for statements on human-rights issues, even while government officials have been careful to avoid directly endorsing a boycott. In a Weibo post last month, the Communist Party Youth League declared: “Want to make money in China while spreading false rumors and boycotting Xinjiang cotton? Wishful thinking!”
Controlling access to China’s massive market remains the best way for Beijing to hit back at the U.S.: As long as Chinese companies still want access to the broader financial world dominated by the U.S. and its allies, Washington can effectively wield sanctions against nearly anyone who doesn’t operate exclusively in China’s orbit. And Beijing has little incentive to shun the dollar.
While President Xi Jinping has called for greater self-sufficiency in key technologies like advanced computer chips, a financial decoupling from the U.S. would only hurt China’s economy and potentially leave the Communist Party more exposed to destabilizing attacks. After Xi effectively ended Hong Kong’s autonomy last year with a sweeping national security law, the U.S. refrained from cutting off the territory’s ability to access U.S. dollars due to the potential devastation to the global financial system.
The Chinese currency now makes up about 2% of global foreign exchange reserves compared with nearly 60% for the U.S. dollar, and most of Beijing’s trade and loans in Xi’s Belt-and-Road Initiative are disbursed in dollars.
Any serious challenge to the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency would also require significant policy changes from China, including lifting capital controls that help the Communist Party keep a lid on sudden outflows that could trigger a financial crisis. Even if the digital yuan could be transacted more cheaply outside of U.S.-controlled global payment systems, it’s unclear if anyone would use it.Bloomberg Quicktake: Now YouTube Channel
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