Russia’s and China’s plans to move away from the dollar-based financial system is nothing new. Countries are working together to reduce their dependence on the dollar – a development that some experts say has led to a “financial alliance” between the economic powers. At the end of 2019, Russia, China and India even considered an alternative to SWIFT. In November, India sought to join Russia’s financial transfer system (STFM).
Alexei Maslov, director of the Institute of Business Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that “dedolarization” between Russia and China was nearing a “turning point” that could increase their relationship to the de facto alliance.
Because we live in the world where trade is driven by the free market, the Kremlin may force Russian and Chinese companies to replace dollars by the yuan and ruble. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said in the past that US aggressive sanctions policies risk destroying the dollar as a reverse currency by forcing companies from Russia and China to look for alternatives to dollar trading, if not for keeping costs on the low level.
Source: Russian Central Bank and the Federal Customs Service
When the Trump administration ratified the pressure on sanctions against Russia and China, both countries and their central banks substantially “diversified” their foreign exchange reserves. Russia and China began quietly to reduce the volume of transactions in dollars and started to use the ruble and the yuan to balance multinational trade. During the long-term development, the mentioned countries have drastically reduced the use of the dollar in bilateral trade in recent years, which has caused the dumping of the dollar, the purchase of gold and currencies between mentioned countries. As we can see in the attached chart, in 2015, approximately 90% of bilateral transactions between Russia and China took place in dollars. However, after the outbreak of the US-China trade war and the joint pressure of Moscow and Beijing to move away from the dollar, the figure fell to 51% by 2019. In 2019, Putin announced that Russia had cut its central bank’s dollar holdings by $101 billion, halving its total volume. According to the latest data from the Russian Central Bank and the Federal Customs Service, the dollar’s share of trade between Russia and China fell below 50% in the first quarter of 2020.
Russia has sometimes preferred to use the yuan over its currency in the hopes that Beijing will become “more assertive” in introducing the yuan in internationalizing the currency. Beijing, on the other hand, is still reluctant to take the wheel off against the artificial devaluation of the currency, despite being included in the IMF’s basket of reserve currencies a few years ago. The reason for this policy by China is to reduce the price of products for the foreign market and thus increase exports and foreign demand.