The rise of China has sparked a debate about the economic and political consequences for the global economy of the internationalisation of the renminbi. We argue that the dominant focus of this literature – primarily the external conditions and requirements for a national currency to become an international currency – misspecifies the connections between the international and domestic requirements for currency internationalisation, as well as the potential to become the dominant international reserve currency. We correct this oversight by developing an integrated theoretical framework that highlights the domestic adjustment costs which a state must accommodate before its currency can carry the weight of internationalisation. These costs constitute a critical element of an international currency’s ‘political economy’, and they force states to negotiate contentious social trade-offs among competing domestic claims on finite public resources in a sustainable manner. Our analysis suggests that the likelihood of China being able to successfully negotiate the social costs associated with running a fully internationalised currency is currently very low, precisely because this will place unacceptable pressure on groups benefiting from the economic and political status quo. This further suggests that the American dollar will remain unchallenged as the global economy’s pre-eminent international currency for the foreseeable future.

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Keywords Currency Internationalisation, Dollar Hegemony, Global Political Economy, International Currency, International Financial and Monetary System, Renminbi (RMB), Sterling
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Journal Review of International Studies
Germain, R.D, & Schwartz, H.M. (Herman Mark). (2017). The political economy of currency internationalisation: the case of the RMB. Review of International Studies, 1–23. doi:10.1017/S0260210517000109