Vol.25, No.S-1 / December 2007

The Renminbi's Dollar Peg at the Crossroads

Maurice Obstfeld

In the face of huge balance of payments surpluses and internal inflationary pressures, China has been in a classic conflict between internal and external balance under its U.S. dollar currency peg. Over the longer term, Chinafs large, modernizing, and diverse economy will need exchange rate flexibility and, eventually, convertibility with open capital markets. A feasible and attractive exit strategy from the essentially fixed renminbi (RMB) exchange rate would be a two-stage approach, consistent with the steps already taken since July 2005, but going beyond them. First, establish a limited trading band for the RMB relative to a basket of major trading partner currencies. Set the band so that it allows some initial revaluation of the RMB against the dollar, manage the basket rate within the band if necessary, and widen the band over time as domestic foreign exchange markets develop. The ultimate goal is a floating exchange rate coupled with some relative of inflation targeting. Second, put on hold ad hoc measures of financial account liberalization. They will be less helpful for relieving exchange rate pressures once the yuan/basket rate is allowed to move flexibly within a band, and they are best postponed until domestic foreign exchange markets develop further, the exchange rate is fully flexible, and the domestic financial system has been strengthened and placed fully on a market-oriented basis.

Key words: Renminbi; China currency; China balance of payments; Fixed exchange rate exit strategy


Views expressed in Monetary and Economic Studies are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Bank of Japan or Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies.

Copyright 2007 Bank of Japan All Rights Reserved.