Chinese Yuan General Info
The Chinese currency is actually called renminbi, but you will more frequently hear it called by the name of its primary unit, the yuan. The renminbi-yuan relationship is similar to that of Britain’s sterling-pound (sterling being the name of the currency and a pound being one unit of that currency). The ISO for renminbi, or the yuan, is CNY. An ISO of CHN denotes yuan traded in offshore markets, such as Hong Kong.
According to the Bank for International Settlements’ 2016 survey of the foreign exchange market, the yuan is now the world’s eighth most traded currency and has overtaken the Mexican peso to become the world’s most traded emerging market currency. However, disappointingly, 95% of all yuan trading remains against just one other currency, the US dollar.
The yuan reached its all-time low against the dollar in January 1994 when the exchange rate for USD/CNY reached 8.73. Its all-time high occurred in January 1981 when USD/CNY hit 1.53.
A high point for Chinese officials in recent years came when the yuan was added to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights basket of currencies in October 2016 and, with its inclusion, joined the dollar, euro, yen and the pound as an official world reserve currency.
Importantly, China’s currency is not freely floating, which is to say that it is not determined wholly by market forces or purely by demand and supply. While market forces do play a part in China’s ‘managed float’ system, daily changes to the value of the yuan are restricted by the country’s central bank to moves of 2% above or below a midpoint, or reference rate, against the US dollar. This special rate is set each day by the central bank after consideration of the values of currencies from China’s main trading partners.CNY Foreign Transfers CNY Travel Money Read our Travel Guide to China
Chinese Yuan - Recent Performance
The Chinese yuan ran from hot to cold in September.
After USD/CNY’s fall to ¥6.436 on September 8th – a twenty-one-month high in yuan buying power – China’s currency remarkably gave back 43% of its entire year’s gains before the month was out. USD/CNY ended September at a six-week high (a yuan low) of ¥6.653. Against the dollar, the yuan remains 4.4% stronger on the year.
September’s volatility in the yuan is unusual because the People’s Bank of China normally keeps a firm hand of control on the currency via a daily ‘fix’ against the dollar. It is, however, an interesting development ahead of October’s National Congress. The Congress is China’s most important political event and it had been expected that the PBOC would work to strengthen the yuan ahead of it. Judging from September’s roller coaster, that’s not the PBOC’s plan.
Against the euro, the yuan was virtually unchanged in September at rates close to ¥7.86, which keeps the yuan's year-to-date loss against the single currency at 7%.