The (Ineffective) Financial Statecraft of China's Bilateral Swap Agreements

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Abstract

Since 2008, the People's Bank of China has signed bilateral swap agreements (BSAs) with 35 foreign central banks. Collectively, these deals amount to nearly US$ 500 billion in Chinese renminbi (RMB) available to Beijing's foreign partners. What has led China to be so aggressive in its efforts to sign so many swap agreements? What are the political economic implications of the swap programme for the US-centric global economic order? China's BSAs can be understood as a form of financial statecraft: the use of national financial and monetary capabilities to achieve foreign policy ends. China has deployed BSAs for both defensive and offensive reasons. Defensively, Beijing has sought to use BSAs to promote trade settlement in RMB thereby reducing China's vulnerability to the dollar's structural dominance in trade. Yet, as explained in this article, they have been ineffective in this regard. Offensively, Beijing has used BSAs as a short-term liquidity backstop outside of the Bretton Woods institutions for partner countries in need. Here, there is greater potential for BSAs to impact the status quo economic order by enhancing Chinese economic influence. However, their potential is dependent on Beijing's willingness to act as a unilateral crisis lender and its ability to further internationalize the RMB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-143
Number of pages22
JournalDevelopment and Change
Volume50
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development

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