Advertisement

Currency peg

When a country tries to keep its currency trading at a certain exchange rate, or within a tight range against another currency, this is known as a “currency peg”.

When a country tries to keep its currency trading at a certain exchange rate, or within a tight range against another currency, this is known as a "currency peg". In most cases, currencies are pegged to the US dollar. In the case of China, pegging its currency (the yuan, or renminbi) to the dollar worked out pretty well. In 1994, China fixed the yuan to the dollar at a rate of around 8.28 (representing a significant devaluation at the time).

Advertisement - Article continues below

It remained around this level until 2005, when it moved to pegging the renminbi to a "basket of currencies" that included the euro and the yen. Within a few years, the renminbi had strengthened against the dollar somewhat, although the authorities continued to exert a tight grip.

Maintaining the peg meant that China's exports remained very cheap, driving large trade surpluses with the US (and the rest of the world), and helping to create rapid GDP growth in China. However, as with most attempts to control or suppress markets, it had significant unintended consequences.

In order to keep the renminbi artificially weak, China effectively had to print money to sell in exchange for dollars and other currencies. That in turn caused massive growth in the domestic money supply, which meant that credit was far too readily available, which has resulted in China having far too much debt relative to GDP.

Meanwhile, as growth has slowed, and its current-account surplus (whereby a country exports more than it imports and gets more money from abroad than it sends out) shrinks, or even becomes a deficit, China's exchange rate may no longer be undervalued indeed, it may be overvalued.

This could force China to drop the peg altogether and allow the renminbi to "free float", finding its own level. That would have a hugely disruptive impact on both the global economy and financial markets.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/glossary/bonds
Glossary

Bonds

A bond is a type of IOU issued by a government, local authority or company to raise money.
19 May 2020
Visit/spending-it/glossary/601300/quantitative-investing
Glossary

Quantitative investing

Quantitative investing uses sophisticated computer-based mathematical models to identify and carry out trades.
8 May 2020
Visit/glossary/quantitative-easing-qe
Glossary

Quantitative easing (QE)

Quantitative easing (QE) involves electronically expanding a central bank's balance sheet.
8 May 2020
Visit/glossary/600702/emerging-markets
Glossary

Emerging markets

An emerging market is an economy that is becoming wealthier and more advanced, but is not yet classed as "developed".
24 Jan 2020

Most Popular

Visit/economy/uk-economy/601427/covid-bounce-back-loans-and-inflation
UK Economy

What bounce back loans can tell us about how we’ll pay for all this

The government will guarantee emergency "bounce back loans" for small businesses hit by Covid-19. Inevitably, many businesses will default. And there'…
1 Jun 2020
Visit/investments/commodities/601433/commodities-possibly-the-biggest-opportunity-in-todays-markets
Commodities

This looks like the biggest opportunity in today’s markets

With low interest rates and constant money-printing, most assets have become expensive. But one major asset class hasn’t. John Stepek explains why com…
2 Jun 2020
Visit/investments/commodities/gold/601444/these-seven-charts-show-exactly-why-you-must-own-gold-today
Gold

These seven charts show exactly why you must own gold today

Covid-19 is accelerating many trends that were already in existence. The rising gold price is one such trend. These seven charts, says Dominic Frisby,…
3 Jun 2020