China Focus: China to advance yuan's full convertibility

Added On March 6, 2015

 BEIJING, March 6 (Xinhua) -- China will realize the yuan's full convertibility under the capital account and expand its global reach, Premier Li Keqiang has said.

The latest official statement has signalled a clearer road map for completing the process that authorities have cautiously promoted for more than a decade.

Currently, around 85 percent of the 40 subcategories in the capital account have become partially or fully convertible, according to data from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, while the current account achieved full convertibility in 1996.

"Authorities are determined to promote the yuan's full convertibility under the capital account," said Shen Jianguang, chief economist at Mizuho Securities. He predicted the plan will be basically achieved within two years.

The Chinese central bank also said in January it will accelerate financial reforms and opening-up this year, including pushing forward the yuan's convertibility under the capital account.

China made new progress in its capital account plan last year with the launch of the Hong Kong-Shanghai Stock Connect scheme and its expansion of investment quotas for both qualified domestic and foreign institutional investors.

"China will speed up creation of an RMB cross-border payment system and improve the RMB's global clearing service system," the premier said in his 2015 government work report delivered Thursday to the annual legislative session of the 12th National People's Congress, the top legislature.

He said the country will also pilot overseas investment for individual investors and launch the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect program on a trial basis.

Experts believe the yuan's full convertibility will improve the currency's global influence.

A January report by the global transaction services organization SWIFT showed that the yuan broke into the top five as a world payment currency in November, overtaking the Canadian dollar and the Australian dollar.

Central bank data showed that the yuan has become China's second most used currency for cross-border payment. The currency is also rising in popularity as an international transaction and reserve currency, thanks to the country's active promotion of yuan-clearing arrangements and currency swap deals with other countries.

Mei Xingbao, a member of the National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told Xinhua that the yuan's full convertibility will be the last step in opening China's financial system. It requires sufficient supervision of the capital market, he said.

The official also warned of possible challenges such as money-laundering and exchange rate fluctuations stemming from speculative capital flows in and out of the country.

J.P. Morgan China Chief Economist Zhu Haibin said China will continue to press ahead with the yuan's full convertibility under the capital account, but the process will most likely be conducted step by step.

"A key issue to be heeded is unsolved financial risk in China as it promotes the yuan's full convertibility. If the capital account were liberalized suddenly when financial reforms in China remain incomplete, it might cause new systemic risks," Zhu said.