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Currency in China: A Complete Guide

As the world’s largest manufacturing economy and exporter, China has grown at an exponential rate. Its currency is naturally closely tied to its economic performance and has also undergone changes over the years. One aspect about it that also seems to evolve is its name, which changes depending on its purpose. Navigating through the many ways of denominating China’s currency can be confusing and this article intends to clear the air around the issue. When dealing with foreign currencies, foreign bank cards etc., it is best to remember that the regulatory environment in China when it comes to these things can be chaotic. Bank staff can prove very helpful and understanding in this given they find the rule changes no less tiresome than their customers.

  1. This was effectively the world’s first international currency, beginning to circulate widely in east and southeast Asia in the late 18th century due to Spanish presence in the region, principally the Philippines and Guam.
  2. It might have been trying to offset the rising cost of tariffs imposed by President Trump’s trade war.
  3. “Encouraging the use of China’s currency gives China more foreign policy flexibility,” Robertson said.
  4. To clarify, both CNY and RMB refer to the same currency, the Chinese renminbi.
  5. You use pounds to purchase goods and services, not pounds sterling or sterling.

These denominations have been available since 1955, except for the ¥20 notes (added in 1999 with the fifth series) ¥50 and ¥100 notes (added in 1987 with the fourth series). Coins are available in denominations from ¥0.01 to ¥1 (¥0.01–1). On rare occasions, larger yuan coin denominations such as ¥5 have been issued to commemorate events but use of these outside of collecting has never been widespread. The RMB is becoming increasingly transferable overseas, but is still largely restricted. Do not overchange your foreign currencies, especially into non-100-yuan notes or old notes (the maximum allowable through China’s customs check is 20,000 RMB). RMB may be readily changed in Hong Kong if you’re stuck with a large amount of it, and traveling.

Chinese Money Today

The bank pays them renminbi in return, which they use to pay their workers and local suppliers. China’s currency, the renminbi or yuan, is tied to the U.S. dollar, the currency of China’s largest trading partner. China does this to hedge against risks in changes to the dollar’s value. China also has been accused of deliberately keeping the yuan’s value low to depress its export prices, but currency manipulation is difficult to prove. The U.S. dollar is the currency most used in international transactions. Several countries use the U.S. dollar as their official currency, and many others allow it to be used in a de facto capacity.


The yuan was derived from the Spanish dollar or Mexican dollar, worth eight Spanish reales and popularly known as the piece-of-eight. This was effectively the world’s first international currency, beginning to circulate widely in east and southeast Asia in the late 18th century due to Spanish presence in the region, principally the Philippines and Guam. By adding to the supply of Treasurys for sale in the market, their value drops, along with the value of the dollar.

The government also gradually allowed market forces to take the dominant role by introducing an “internal settlement rate” of ¥2.8 to 1 US dollar which was a devaluation of almost 100%. If you are traveling to China for the first time, you might be wondering whether or not to bring any cash. Sometimes if a customer tries to pay in cash but does not have the exact amount, shop owners and taxi drivers will say that they cannot make change and request that the customer pays using WeChat or Alipay instead.

Instead, you should expect to pay a significant premium on the exchange rate that you would receive from a licensed currency exchange shop. The official currency of China is the Chinese renminbi with the currency symbol ¥ (or RMB ¥) and ISO 4217 code CNY. That said, the renminbi is often referred to in the abbreviated form of RMB or as the basic unit of currency, the yuan. The renminbi has been legal tender in China since 1948, replacing the Nationalist-issued yuan. The basic unit of Chinese currency is the yuan (元 /ywen/), spoken colloquially as kuai (块 /kwhy/). There are 10 jiao (角 /jyaoww/), known colloquially as mao (毛 /maoww/), to the yuan.

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The Chinese Yuan continued to lose value during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely due to reduced economic activity and strict lockdowns. In April of 2022, the yuan suffered its largest-ever monthly price drop, losing 7% of its value over three months. For years, the Chinese Yuan had never been close to being considered an international currency because of the Chinese government’s rigid controls.

However, the Chinese renminbi is often referred to using different names. These names include the official ISO 4217 code CNY and the abbreviated form RMB. To clarify, both CNY and RMB refer to the same currency, the Chinese renminbi. That said, China imposes strict currency controls on the currency domestically, which can result in renminbi trading at a different price inside and outside of the country.

If you don’t have any idea about the trend of the RMB’s exchange rate, then you can pay 50% of the tour price at the time of booking, and the rest when your tour gets closer. Check out our top ten tours for first-time travelers to China. Banks in Hong Kong allow people to maintain accounts in RMB.[85] Because of changes in legislation in July 2010, many banks around the world[86] are now slowly https://forex-review.net/ offering individuals the chance to hold deposits in Chinese renminbi. From 1949 until the late 1970s, the state fixed China’s exchange rate at a highly overvalued level as part of the country’s import-substitution strategy. During this time frame, the focus of the state’s central planning was to accelerate industrial development and reduce China’s dependence on imported manufactured goods.

China in particular has been aggressive in its attempts to internationalize the yuan. Beijing has been signing currency swap agreements and doling out yuan-denominated loans. That largely shut out Moscow from the global financial system, forcing it to rely more on currencies other than the dollar and euro.

Other helpful currency guides.

At the same time, the government introduced measures to allow retention of part of the foreign exchange earnings from non-trade sources, such as overseas remittances, port fees paid by foreign vessels, and tourism. Finally, this year, the PBOC has been introducing the digital version of the Yuan, or the eRMB. Through this initiative the central bank aims to digitize bank notes and coins in circulation, and since Chinese society is already used to digital payments, the adoption could be much faster. After familiarizing yourself with the exchange rate with your home currency, it’s pretty easy to tell how much each note is worth. Where things can get tricky are with the mao/jiao notes and coins. In 1917, the warlord in control of Manchuria, Zhang Zuolin, introduced a new currency, known as the Fengtien yuan or dollar, for use in the Three Eastern Provinces.

During the Chinese Civil War, the communist party established the People’s Bank of China and issued the first renminbi notes in December 1948, about a year before it defeated the Kuomintang government. The word “yuan” is frequently used in Mandarin translations of foreign currencies. In Mandarin Chinese, the character yuan is used for round or circular things. This word was also used for the silver Spanish dollars introduced by European merchants in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There are currency exchange booths at most major airports in big cities, so you could bring a small amount of your own currency with you and exchange it at the airport when you arrive. Alternatively, you could exchange money in your home country before getting on the plane.

The denomination and the words “People’s Bank of China” are also printed in Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur and Zhuang on the back of each banknote, in addition to the boldface Hanyu Pinyin “Zhongguo Renmin Yinhang” (without tones). The right front of the note has a tactile representation of the denomination in Chinese Braille starting from the fourth series. In fact, mobile payments have become so common that some merchants no longer keep enough small bills on hand to make change. If you aren’t quite sure how to use Chinese mobile payment platforms, you’ll be pleased to know that China does still accept cash. However, it is important to recognize that although physical bills are still very much in circulation in China, mobile payment options such as WeChat Pay and Alipay are becoming more and more common.

Banknote printing facilities are based in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’an, Shijiazhuang, and Nanchang. Also, high grade paper for the banknotes is produced at two facilities in Baoding and Kunshan. Beginning in the mid-1980s, the government sanctioned foreign exchange markets, known as swap centres, eventually in most large cities. Renminbi is the name of the currency while yuan is the name of the primary unit of the renminbi.

Below is the fifth series of banknotes, commissioned in 1999, with the head of Mao Zedong on the front, and fourth series jiao notes. They add hidden markups to their exchange rates – charging you more without your knowledge. In the Republic of China, the common English name is the “New Taiwan dollar” lmfx review but banknotes issued between 1949 and 1956 used “yuan” as the transliteration.[6] More modern notes lack any transliteration. The Chinese Soviet Republic issued copper 1 and 5 fen and silver 2 jiao and 1 yuan coins. The Sichuan-Shaanxi Soviet issued copper 200 and 500 wen and silver 1 yuan coins.

Xe Currency Charts

The first locally minted silver dollar or yuan accepted all over Qing dynasty China (1644–1912) was the silver dragon dollar introduced in 1889. A particularly interesting development to monitor will be the uptake of China’s digital currency, the e-renminbi, which should allow for the settling of international payments that deliberately circumvent the US dollar. Trialled initially within several Chinese cities, the e-renminbi was the first digital currency to be issued by a major economy. It aims to relieve some of the pressures of the dollar-dominated IMS. China’s CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) supports the country’s efforts to move away from its reliance on the US dollar and Western-led payment systems.

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