The alternative financial system linking the Chinese and Russian economies takes shape:
In 2015, approximately 90% of trade between Russia and China was settled in dollars, and by 2020, dollar-denominated trade between the two Eurasian giants had almost reduced by half, with only 46% of trade in dollars. Russia has also been leading the way in cutting the share of US dollars in its foreign reserves. The mechanisms for de-dollarizing China-Russia trade are also used to end the use of the greenback with third parties – with advancements being seen in places such as Latin America, Turkey, Iran, India, etc. The US has been pumping out dollars to the entire world for decades, and at some point, the tide will change as the sea of dollars return home with increasingly diminished value.
The SWIFT system for financial transactions between banks worldwide was previously the only system for international payments. This central role for SWIFT began to erode when the US used it as a political weapon. The Americans first expelled Iran and North Korea, and in 2014, Washington began threatening to expel Russia from the system as well. Over the past few weeks, the threat of using SWIFT as a weapon against Russia has intensified.
China has responded by creating CIPS and Russia developed SPFS, both being alternatives to SWIFT. Even several other European countries have banded together with an alternative to SWIFT to curb Washington’s extra-territorial jurisdiction and thus continue trading with Iran. A new China-Russia financial architecture should integrate CIPS and SPFS, and make them more available to third parties. If the US expels Russia, then the decoupling from SWIFT would intensify further.
The US-led IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank are renowned instruments of US economic statecraft. The launch of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in 2015 became a watershed moment in the global financial architecture, as all the major allies of the US (except Japan) signed up in defiance of American warnings. The New Development Bank, formerly referred to as the BRICS Development Bank, was a further step towards decoupling from the US-led development banks. The Eurasian Development Bank and future SCO Development Bank are more nails in the coffin of US-controlled development banks.
China and Russia have also developed their own rating agencies and replaced the dominant position of Visa and Mastercard in their respective countries. This new financial architecture is complemented with an energy partnership and a technological partnership as neither China nor Russia wants to be reliant on American high-tech industries as they move into the fourth industrial revolution.
For those who live outside the USA, it will be wise to find a bank that is utilizing both systems, which will limit one’s exposure to either deplatforming or a collapse of the self-styled “rules-based order” that is, in fact, neither rules-based nor orderly.