Over-reliance on the US dollar in the international monetary system is an anachronism, argues Paola Subacchi, Research Director of International Economics at Chatham House and Professor of Economics at the University of Bologna. She looks at the pressure from China and other developing countries to expand the use of multiple currencies in the international monetary system as the first step toward institutionalising a multipolar world order.

Giving up the spotlight is never easy. The US, like many ageing celebrities, is struggling to share the stage with new faces, especially China. The upcoming meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – two institutions dominated by the US and its Western allies – provide an ideal opportunity to change that.

The US must come to terms with the reality that the world has changed. The longer the US remains in a state of denial, the more damage it will do to its interests and its global influence, which remains substantial, if more constrained than before. The world no longer adheres to the static Cold War order, with two blocs locked in open but guarded confrontation. Nor does it work according to the Pax Americana that dominated in the decade after the Soviet Union’s collapse, when the US briefly emerged as the sole superpower.

Today’s world is underpinned by a multipolar order, which emerged from the rise of developing economies – most notably China – as major actors in trade
and finance. The US – not to mention the other G-7 countries – now must compete and cooperate not only with China, but also with India, Brazil and others through expanded forums like the G-20.

To this end, the US must show leadership and adaptability. It cannot refuse to support China’s efforts to expand its role in global governance. Nor should it issue harsh rebukes to its allies when they do not follow suit, as it did when the UK announced its intention to join the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The US seems to be stuck in the Bretton Woods system, the rules-based order – underpinned by the IMF and the World Bank, with the US dollar at its heart – that emerged after World War II. The Bretton Woods system institutionalised America’s geopolitical supremacy, leaving the old imperial power, the UK, to step aside – a
step that it took graciously, if a little desperately, given its grave post-war economic situation.

Over the years, however, the Bretton Woods system, with its mix of liberal multilateralism and market-oriented economic policies, has come to symbolise the Anglo-American dominance of the global economy that much of the world now criticises, especially since the global financial crisis. In particular, the Washington Consensus – the set of free-market principles that influences the policies of the IMF, the World Bank, the US and the UK – has generated considerable resentment, especially after the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s.

Against this backdrop, it is hardly surprising that China has been using its growing global influence to help engineer a new economic order – one in which the US dollar does not reign supreme. Zhou Xiaochuan, the Governor of the People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank, has repeatedly called for a shift toward an international monetary system that allows for the use of multiple currencies for payments and investment. Such an approach would reduce the risk and impact of liquidity crises, while decoupling the international monetary system from the ‘economic conditions and sovereign interests of any single country’.

Of course, China believes that its own currency, the renminbi, should eventually play a central role in this new monetary system, so that it reflects China’s role not only as a leading engine of global economic growth, but also as the world’s largest creditor. Indeed, together with the other systemically important economies (the US, the UK, Japan and the Eurozone) China drives trends that, for better or worse, extend far beyond its borders.

Since 2009, China’s leadership has been pursuing a set of policies that encourage the use of the renminbi in regional trade and reduce its dependence on the dollar in international payments. But expanding the renminbi’s role in the international monetary system is just the first step toward institutionalising a multipolar world order. China has also spearheaded the establishment of new multilateral institutions, with the AIIB following on the heels of the New Development Bank, created with other major emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India and
South Africa).

By taking these steps, China’s leaders have called attention to the inadequacy of the existing international monetary system, and its institutional framework, in today’s complex, multipolar world economy. In particular, China’s agenda highlights questions about America’s capacity to provide the needed liquidity to support international trade and finance.

To be sure, the US is right to wonder whether the new order that China hopes to build will be as open and rules-based as the American-led order – the one that gave China the market access it needed to achieve its spectacular economic rise. But the answer to that question can be found only by engaging China on the issue of reform of global governance – not by denying that change is needed at all.

As the US stubbornly pursues a policy of containment toward China – exemplified in its fight against the AIIB’s establishment, its relentless accusations of currency manipulation, and its refusal to ratify IMF reforms that would increase China’s influence – it risks losing its ability to shape what comes next. The result could be a world of fragmented blocs – an outcome that
would undermine not only global prosperity, but also cooperation on shared challenges.

The spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank offer an important opportunity to signal a new approach toward China. And there could be no more credible
signal than US support for the renminbi’s addition to the basket of currencies that the IMF uses to value its international reserve asset, the Special Drawing Right. America will be in the spotlight once again. But how will it perform?

Paola Subacchi is Research Director of International Economics at Chatham House and Professor of Economics at the University of Bologna. 

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2015.www.project-syndicate.org


皇家国际事务研究所(Chatham House)国际经济学研 究主管、博洛尼亚大学经济学教授保拉·苏巴奇指 出,国际货币体系过度依赖美元已属不合时宜。她 认为中国及其他发展中国家就于国际货币体系中扩 大使用多种货币而施加的种种压力,是使多极世界 秩序趋于制度化的第一步。


放弃作为聚光灯下的国际关注焦 点,从来不是一件易事。美国现 时的心情,就如年华逝去的艺人一样, 挣扎于需要将自己久站的舞台与新来者 (特别是中国)分享。即将举行的国 际货币基金组织(IMF)和世界银行(由 美国及其西方盟友主导的两个机构)会 议,是一个带来改变的契机。

美国必须面对世界已经改变的事实。 美国抱持排斥态度的时间越久,所蒙 受的损失便会越大,其在全球的影响 力亦会越减(尽管目前它在全球的影 响力依然巨大)。现时的世界已非以 往的静态冷战时代,由两大阵营公开 而又克制地相互对抗,而世界秩序也不再像苏联解体后所盛行的“美式和 平”般,由美国扮演唯一超级大国的 角色。

当今的世界是建基于一个因为发展中经 济体之崛起(其中最瞩目的是中国)所 产生的多极秩序,而在贸易和金融领域 中,此等经济体皆扮演著重要角色。美 国现时(其他G-7国家更不在话下)不 但必须与中国竞争和合作,而且也必须 藉G-20等扩大论坛,与印度、巴西及其 他国家竞争和合作。

因此,美国必须展现其领导地位和适 应能力,不应否定中国欲扩大其在环 球治理中扮演的角色所作出的努力。 此外,美国也不应因为盟友不效法它 的做法而对其作出猛烈抨击,就如英 国宣布其有意加入中国所倡议的亚洲 基础设施投资银行时所面对的抨击。

美国似乎仍在坚守著布雷顿森林体系 而对现时局势置诸不理。布雷顿森林 体系是于二战后产生的,一个以规则 为基础的新秩序,其骨干是IMF和世界 银行,并以美元为核心。布雷顿森林 体系将美国的地缘政治霸主地位制度 化,迫使昔日的帝国英国退居二线。 英国由于须面对战后严峻的经济状 况,因此也只得大方地(但也带点儿无 奈)将其位置相让。

然而,多年以来,布雷顿森林体系连 同所伴随的自由多边主义和市场经济 政策,是代表著一个由盎格鲁-美利坚 所主导,在现时备受各国批评(特别 是在环球金融危机后)的环球经济体 系。尤其是,华盛顿共识—一套影响 IMF、世界银行、美国和英国政策的自 由市场原则—引发了许多国家的巨大 不满(特别是在上世纪90年代的亚洲 金融危机后)。

在这一背景下,中国利用其不断增长 的全球影响力来引导建立一个新经 济秩序—一个美元在其中不再享有优越地位的新秩序—这是完全不足为奇 的。中国人民银行(中国的中央银 行)行长周小川一再呼吁实行一个允 许以多种货币进行支付和投资的国际 货币体系。这一途径将可降低流动性 危机的风险和影响,并同时让国际货 币体系不再与“任何单一国家的经济 状况和国家利益”挂钩。

当然,中国认为其货币—人民币—最 终应该在这一新货币体系中扮演核 心角色,以反映中国不但是全球经济 增长的火车头,也是全球最大的债权 国。事实上,中国连同其他具系统重 要性的经济体(美国、英国、日本和 欧元区),一起驱动着远超其疆界的 走向(不论是好是坏)。

2009年以来,中国领导层所实行的政 策,是鼓励在区内贸易中使用人民币, 并在国际支付中减低对美元的依赖。但 扩大人民币在国际货币体系中的角色, 只是使多极世界秩序趋于制度化的第一 步。中国还牵头成立了多个新多边机 构,而在亚投行之前,还有中国与其他 主要新兴经济体(巴西、俄罗斯、印度 和南非)共同成立的新开发银行。

中国领导人通过实施这些步骤,唤起了 人们关注现行国际货币体系及其组织机 构在当今复杂的多极世界经济中的力有 不逮之处。特别是,中国在其议程中质 疑美国是否有能力提供必要的流动性以

平心而论,美国质疑中国希望构建的 新秩序(以让其得以进入市场,从而 实现其辉煌经济发展),是否能与美 国所领导的秩序一样公开并以规则为 本,这确是有其道理的。然而,问题 的答案,只能通过将中国导向环球治 理改革等议题来寻找,而非断然否定 任何改变需要。

由于美国执意采取遏制中国的政策 (可见于:其反对亚投行的成立、严 厉批评货币操纵、以及拒绝认可该等 会致使中国影响力上升的IMF改革), 它需要面对在未来丧失话语权的风 险。其结果可能是产生一个阵营林 立的世界,而这不但会使全球繁荣受 损,也会破坏面对共同挑战时相互间 的协作。

IMF和世界银行的春季会议将会是一 个展示对华新路向的重要机会,而当 中最具意义的,莫过于美国愿意支 持人民币加入IMF用于为特别提款权 (其国际储备资产)计值的一篮子货 币中。美国将再一次成为聚光灯下的 国际关注焦点,但届时它将会作何取 态呢?

所(Chatham House) 国际经济学研究, 主管、博洛尼亚大学经济学教授。

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2015. www.project-syndicate.org