RMB internationalisation: Can the Belt and Road revitalise the RMB?

Latest data and insights from SWIFT highlight five prominent factors that support a positive outlook for the internationalisation of the renminbi (RMB), despite a decline in usage of the Chinese currency in international payments.

With the SWIFT Business Forum China taking place on 28 July 2017, a special edition of the RMB Tracker has been published. This report focuses on 2017 half year statistics and analysis from SWIFT, as well as expert industry insights about the internationalisation of the RMB, with a particular focus on five key enablers driving global adoption of the currency:

  • The Belt and Road initiative
  • China’s Cross-border Interbank Payments System (CIPS)
  • Hong Kong’s role as an essential RMB intermediator
  • The relaxation of capital market controls, and
  • FinTech’s contribution to the last mile of RMB connectivity

Alain Raes, Chief Executive APAC & EMEA, SWIFT, said: “The exclusive insights shown in the special edition of the RMB Tracker offers a fresh look at RMB internationalisation. As a member-owned cooperative, we are committed to serving financial institutions with optimised products and services that can support their customers’ growth. Broader connectivity to RMB markets is becoming essential; at SWIFT we support China’s financial institutions, market infrastructures and corporations with connectivity to the global economy. This in turn supports the internationalisation of the Chinese currency.”

In June 2017, the SWIFT RMB Tracker ranked the RMB as #6 in world payment currencies. This indicates a slowdown in internationalisation, with the proportion of international currency payments (customer initiated payments and institutional transfers) denominated in RMB falling from 2.09% in June 2015 to 1.98% in June 2017.

In spite of this trend, more than 1,900 financial institutions worldwide are using the RMB for payments as of June 2017. Out of the 1,900 cited, nearly 1,300 institutions are making RMB international payments with China or Hong Kong, representing a 16% increase from June 2015.

The report also notes that, despite efforts to internationalise the RMB, the US dollar remains the major currency for payments to China. For example, 98% of payments sent from the United States to China by volume are in US dollar, and the RMB’s share of payments remains low for all countries – between 1 and 2% – with the exception of Taiwan, where 15% of payments were made in RMB.

Additional insights from the report include key factors that support long-term RMB internationalisation, such as:

  • Promising RMB growth in South East Asian countries along the Maritime Silk Road;
  • Strong increase in RMB Credit Transfer Payments in value from China to Germany, Poland and Czechia (formerly Czech Republic). This is in contrast to substantial decreases from China to the Netherlands, France and Italy;
  • Hong Kong’s continued role as an essential intermediator, increasing its RMB activity share to 76%. 49.4% of all RMB payments currently transit through Hong Kong; and
  • Major Chinese banks are investing in cross-border payments innovation through the SWIFT gpi service. SWIFT gpi provides Chinese banks’ customers with a same-day payment experience around the world. Over 110 banks are part of the initiative, of which 16 in China.


To download a full copy of the report, please click here.