Redback Rising: China's Bilateral Swap Agreements and Renminbi Internationalization


For several years now, China has implemented policies to promote the international use of its national currency, the Renminbi (RMB). As part of these efforts, the People’s Bank of China (PBC) has negotiated 25 bilateral currency swap agreements (BSAs) with foreign central banks. These make it easier for firms in both China and its partner countries to settle cross-border trade and direct investment in RMB. We seek to explain why China and these countries cooperate via BSAs. We theorize that trade and direct investment interdependence relate to dyadic BSA cooperation via two mechanisms: financing insulation from international liquidity shocks and reduced transaction costs of cross-border exchange for local firms. Additionally, we expect the presence of preferential trade agreements (PTAs) and bilateral investment treaties (BITs) will increase the probability of dyadic BSA cooperation. BSAs are natural extensions of these existing agreements. They represent an additional layer of state-level formal cooperation that further reduces barriers to cross-border trade and direct investment. Our empirical analysis finds that both de facto trade interdependence and de jure economic integration via PTAs and BITs increase the probability of BSA cooperation between China and partners.

International Studies Quarterly
Steven Liao
Steven Liao
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Daniel McDowell
Associate Professor of Political Science