Publication Date: January, 2020

The road to currency internationalization: Global perspectives and chinese experience


This paper studies international currency use in financial transactions. A currency becomes international when it circulates outside of its issuing country, and advances to vehicle currency status if used by non-residents. With currency information from the SWIFT dataset, we estimate a gravity model to explain the geographical distribution of international currency use. A higher level of economic integration and stable macroeconomic conditions increase the international use of major currencies such as USD and EUR. Merchandise trade and portfolio investment are most helpful in increasing the direct use of currency, while foreign direct investment (FDI) has a stronger effect on promoting vehicle use. Merchandise trade improves the intensity of the global use of the Chinese renminbi(RMB), while FDI increases the number of its users. The policy effect on RMB internationalization is significant only in enhancing the intensity of direct use. Furthermore, the global use of RMB is decreasing by distance, implying that its role is more regional. We recommend outward FDI through the Belt and Road Initiative to further promote RMB internationalization.

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  Woo Wing Thye

Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia

President (2014-2022)