The monetary regimes of China and Russia, two of the world's most resource-rich nations, are drawing closer with every passing day.
In the latest push for convergence, China has established a payment versus payment (PVP) system for Chinese yuan and Russian ruble transactions in a move to reduce risks and improve the efficiency of its foreign exchange transactions. The PVP system for yuan and ruble transactions, designed to streamline commerce and curency transactions between the two nations, was launched on Monday after receiving approval from China’s central bank, according to a statement by the country’s foreign exchange trading system.
It marks the first time a PVP system has been established for trading the yuan and foreign currencies, said the statement, which was posted on Wednesday on the website of the China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS). PVP systems allow simultaneous settlement of transactions in two different currencies.
According to CFETS, the system would reduce settlement risk as well as the risk of transactions taking place in different time zones, and improve foreign exchange market efficiency. Of course, if the two countries had a blockchain-based settlement system, they would already have all this and much more.
CFETS said it plans to introduce PVP systems for yuan transactions with other currencies based on China’s Belt and Road initiative, and complying with the process of renminbi internationalization. Russia, however, is a top priority: the world's biggest oil producer recently became the largest source of oil for China, the world’s top energy consumer.
To be sure, the monetary convergence between Beijing and Moscow is hardly new. The most notable recent development took place in April, when the Russian central bank opened its first overseas office in Beijing on March 14, marking a step forward in forging a Beijing-Moscow alliance to bypass the US dollar in the global monetary system, and to phase-in a gold-backed standard of trade. As the South China Morning Post reported at the time, the new office was part of agreements made between the two neighbours "to seek stronger economic ties" since the West brought in sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis and the oil-price slump hit the Russian economy.
At the time, Vladimir Shapovalov, a senior official at the Russian central bank, said the two central banks were drafting a memorandum of understanding to solve technical issues around China’s gold imports from Russia, and that details would be released soon, to which we said that If Russia - the world's fourth largest gold producer after China, Japan and the US - is indeed set to become a major supplier of gold to China, the probability of a scenario hinted by many over the years, namely that Beijing is preparing to eventually unroll a gold-backed currency, increases by orders of magnitude.
Furthermore, also around the same time, as the Russian central bank was getting closer to China, China was responding in kind with the establishment of a clearing bank in Moscow for handling transactions in Chinese yuan. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) officially started operating as a Chinese renminbi clearing bank in Russia on Wednesday this past Wednesday
"The financial regulatory authorities of China and Russia have signed a series of major agreements, which marks a new level of financial cooperation," Dmitry Skobelkin, the abovementioned deputy head of the Russian Central Bank, said. "The launching of renminbi clearing services in Russia will further expand local settlement business and promote financial cooperation between the two countries," he added according to.
Irina Rogova, a Russian financial analyst told the Russian magazine Expert that the clearing center could become a large financial hub for countries in the Eurasian Economic Union.
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The creation of the clearing center, and the launch of PVP systems enables the two countries to further increase bilateral trade and investment while decreasing their dependence on the US dollar. It will create a pool of yuan liquidity in Russia that enables transactions for trade and financial operations to run smoothly. In expanding the use of national currencies for transactions, it could also potentially reduce the volatility of yuan and ruble exchange rates. The clearing center is one of a range of measures the People's Bank of China and the Russian Central Bank have been looking at to deepen their co-operation, Sputnik reported.
But one of the most significant measures under consideration is the previously reported push for joint organization of trade in gold.
In recent years, China and Russia have been the world's most active buyers of the precious metal. On a visit to China last year, the deputy head of the Russian Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov said that the two countries want to facilitate more transactions in gold between the two countries.
"We discussed the question of trade in gold. BRICS countries are large economies with large reserves of gold and an impressive volume of production and consumption of this precious metal. In China, the gold trade is conducted in Shanghai, in Russia it is in Moscow. Our idea is to create a link between the two cities in order to increase trade between the two markets," First Deputy Governor of the Russian Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov told Russia's TASS news agency.
In other words, China and Russia are continuing to shift away from dollar-based trade, to commerce which will eventually be backstopped by gold, or what is gradually emerging as an Eastern gold standard, one shared between Russia and China, and which may day backstop their respective currencies.
Meanwhile, the price of gold continues to reflect none of these potentially tectonic strategic shifts, just as China - which has been the biggest accumulator of gold in recent years - likes it.