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人民币 (Chinese)
Renminbi banknotes of the 2005 series
Renminbi banknotes of the 2005 series
ISO 4217 code CNY
Central bank People's Bank of China
Official user(s) China China
Unofficial user(s)  Mongolia
 North Korea (until Nov 2009)
 Burma (in Kokang and Wa)
Inflation 1.7%, October 2012
Source BBC News
Method CPI
Pegged with Partially, to a basket of trade-weighted international currencies
1 yuán (元,圓)
1/10 jiǎo (角)
1/100 fēn (分)
Symbol ¥
Nickname none
yuán (元,圓) kuài (块)
jiǎo (角) máo (毛)
Plural The language(s) of this currency does not have a morphological plural distinction.
Freq. used ¥0.1, ¥0.5, ¥1
Rarely used ¥0.01, ¥0.02, ¥0.05
Freq. used ¥0.1, ¥0.5, ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥20, ¥50, ¥100
Rarely used ¥0.2, ¥2
Traditional Chinese 人民幣
Simplified Chinese 人民币

The renminbi (RMB, sign: ¥; code: CNY; also CN¥, and CN元) is the official currency of China (People's Republic of China). Renminbi is legal tender in mainland China, but not in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Macau. It is issued by the People's Bank of China, the monetary authority of China. Its name ( simplified Chinese: 人民币; traditional Chinese: 人民幣; pinyin: rénmínbì) means "people's currency".

The primary unit of renminbi is the yuán (元). One yuan is subdivided into 10 jiǎo (角), which in turn is subdivided into 10 fēn (分). Renminbi banknotes are available in denominations from 1 jiao to 100 yuan (¥0.1–100) and coins have denominations from 1 fen to 1 yuan (¥0.01–1). Thus, some denominations exist in coins and banknotes. Coins under ¥0.1 are used infrequently.

Through most of its history, the value of the renminbi was pegged to the U.S. dollar. As China pursued its gradual transition from central planning to a market economy, and increased its participation in foreign trade, the renminbi was devalued to increase the competitiveness of Chinese industry. It had previously been claimed that the renminbi's official exchange rate was undervalued by as much as 37.5% against its purchasing power parity (see below). However, appreciation actions by the Chinese government, as well as quantitative easing measures taken by the Federal Reserve and other major central banks, have caused the renminbi to be within as little as 8% of its equilibrium value by the second half of 2012.

Since 2005, the renminbi exchange rate has been allowed to float in a narrow margin around a fixed base rate determined with reference to a basket of world currencies. The Chinese government has announced that it will gradually increase the flexibility of the exchange rate. China has initiated various pilot projects to "internationalize" the RMB in the hope that it will become a reserve currency over the long term.


A variety of currencies circulated in China during the Republic of China (ROC) era, most of which were denominated in the unit " yuán" (pronounced [jʏɛn˧˥]). Each was distinguished by a currency name, such as the fabi ("legal tender"), the "gold yuan", and the "silver yuan". The yuan written in Chinese as 元 (informally) means beginning or written as 圓 (formally) means round, after the shape of the coins. The Korean and Japanese currency units, won and yen respectively, are cognates of the yuan and have the same Chinese character ( hanja/ kanji) representation, but in different forms (respectively, 원/圓 and 円/圓), also meaning round in Korean and Japanese. However, they do not share the same names for the subdivisions. The principal unit of New Taiwan dollar, used in Taiwan as the currency of the Republic of China, is also referred to in the Chinese language as " yuán" (written as 元 or 圓).

As the Communist Party of China took control of ever larger territories in the latter part of the Chinese Civil War, its People's Bank of China began in 1948 to issue a unified currency for use in Communist-controlled territories. Also denominated in yuan, this currency was identified by different names, including "People's Bank of China banknotes" ( simplified Chinese: 中国人民银行钞票; traditional Chinese: 中國人民銀行鈔票; from November 1948), "New Currency" ( simplified Chinese: 新币; traditional Chinese: 新幣; from December 1948), "People's Bank of China notes" ( simplified Chinese: 中国人民银行券; traditional Chinese: 中國人民銀行券; from January 1949), "People's Notes" (人民券, as an abbreviation of the last name), and finally "People's Currency", or "renminbi", from June 1949.


Around 210BC, the first emperor of China Qin Shi Huang (Chinese: 秦始皇; pinyin: Qín Shǐ Huáng, 260 BC – 210 BC) abolished all other forms of local currency and introduced a uniform copper coin based on the coins previously used by Qin. These copper coins were round-shaped with a square hole in the centre to allow the coins to be strung together to create higher denominations of currency. Similar copper coins were used as the chief denomination in China until the introduction of the yuan in the late 19th century.

Production and minting

Renminbi currency production is carried out by a state owned corporation, China Banknote Printing and Minting (CBPMC; 中国印钞造币总公司) headquartered in Beijing. CBPMC uses several printing and engraving and minting facilities around the country to produce banknotes and coins for subsequent distribution. Banknote printing facilities are based in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi'an, Shijiazhuang, and Nanchang. Mints are located in Nanjing, Shanghai, and Shenyang. Also, high grade paper for the banknotes is produced at two facilities in Baoding and Kunshan. The Baoding facility is the largest facility in the world dedicated to developing banknote material according to its website. In addition, the People's Bank of China has its own printing technology research division that researches new techniques for creating banknotes and making counterfeiting more difficult.

First series

The first series of renminbi banknotes was introduced by the People's Bank of China in December 1948, about a year before the establishment of the People's Republic of China. It was issued only in paper money form and replaced the various currencies circulating in the areas controlled by the communists. One of the first tasks of the new government was to end the hyperinflation that had plagued China in the final years of the Kuomintang (KMT) era. That achieved, a revaluation occurred in 1955, at the rate of 1 new yuan = 10,000 old yuan.

Second to fifth series

The second series of renminbi banknotes was introduced in 1955. During the era of the command economy, the value of the renminbi was set to unrealistic values in exchange with western currency and severe currency exchange rules were put in place. With the opening of the mainland Chinese economy in 1978, a dual-track currency system was instituted, with renminbi usable only domestically, and with foreigners forced to use foreign exchange certificates. The unrealistic levels at which exchange rates were pegged led to a strong black market in currency transactions.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, China worked to make the RMB more convertible. Through the use of swap centres, the exchange rate was brought to realistic levels and the dual track currency system was abolished.

The renminbi is convertible on current accounts but not capital accounts. The ultimate goal has been to make the RMB fully convertible. However, partly in response to the Asian financial crisis in 1998, China has been concerned that the mainland Chinese financial system would not be able to handle the potential rapid cross-border movements of hot money, and as a result, as of 2012, the currency trades within a narrow band specified by the Chinese central government.

The fen and jiao have become increasingly unnecessary as prices have increased. Chinese retailers tend to avoid decimal values (such as ¥9.99), opting instead for integer values of yuan (such as ¥9 or ¥10).


In 1955, aluminium 1, 2 and 5 fen coins were introduced. In 1980, brass 1, 2, and 5 jiao and cupro-nickel 1 yuan coins were added, although the 1 and 2 jiao were only produced until 1981, with the last 5 jiao and 1 yuan issued in 1985. In 1991, a new coinage was introduced, consisting of an aluminium 1 jiao, brass 5 jiao and nickel-clad-steel 1 yuan. Issuance of the 1 and 2 fen coins ceased in 1991, with that of the 5 fen halting a year later. The small coins were still made for annual mint sets, and from the beginning of 2005 again for general circulation. New designs of the 1 and 5 jiao and 1 yuan were introduced in between 1999 and 2002. The frequency of usage of coins varies between different parts of China.

Using in minority region

The second series of the renminbi had the most readable minority languages text, but no Zhuang text on it. Its issue of ¥0.1~¥0.5 even highlighted the Mongolian text.
A special edition designed for Inner Mongolia in the first series of the renminbi.

The renminbi yuan has different names when used in minority regions.

  • When used in Inner Mongolia and other Mongol autonomies, a yuan is called a tugreg ( Mongolian: ᠲᠦᠭᠦᠷᠢᠭ᠌ tügürig). However, when used in the republic of Mongolia, it's still named yuani ( Mongolian: юань) to differ it from Mongolian tögrög ( Mongolian: төгрөг). One Chinese tügürig (tugreg) is divided into 100 mönggü ( Mongolian: ᠮᠥᠩᠭᠦ), one Chinese jiao is labeled "10 mönggü". In Mongolian, renminbi is called aradin jogos or arad-un jogos ( Mongolian: ᠠᠷᠠᠳ ᠤᠨ ᠵᠣᠭᠣᠰ arad-un ǰoγos).
  • When used in Tibet and other Tibetan autonomies, a yuan is called a gor ( Tibetan: སྒོར་, ZYPY: Gor). One gor is divided into 10 gorsur ( Tibetan: སྒོར་ཟུར་, ZYPY: Gorsur) or 100 gar ( Tibetan: སྐར་, ZYPY: gar). In Tibetan, renminbi is called mimangxogngü ( Tibetan: མི་དམངས་ཤོག་དངུལ།, ZYPY: Mimang Xogngü) or mimang shog dngul.

International use

International trade

Before 2009, the Chinese renminbi had little to no exposure in the international markets because of strict government controls by the central Chinese government that prohibited almost all export of the currency, or use of it in international transactions. Transactions between Chinese companies and a foreign entity were generally denominated in US dollars. With Chinese companies unable to hold US dollars and foreign companies unable to hold Chinese yuan, all transactions would go through the People's Bank of China. Once the sum was paid by the foreign party in dollars, the central bank would pass the settlement in renminbi to the Chinese company at the state-controlled exchange rate.

In June 2009 the Chinese officials announced a pilot scheme where business and trade transactions were allowed between limited businesses in Guangdong and Shanghai municipalities and only counterparties in Hong Kong, Macau, and select ASEAN nations. Proving a success, the program was further extended to 20 Chinese provinces and counterparties internationally in July 2010, and in September 2011 it was announced that the remaining 11 Chinese provinces would be included.

In steps intended to establish the renminbi as an international reserve currency, China has agreements with Russia, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan allowing trade with those countries to be settled directly in renminbi instead of requiring conversion to US dollars.

International reserve currency

Currency restrictions regarding renminbi denominated bank deposits and financial products were greatly liberalized in July, 2010. In 2010 renminbi denominated bonds were reported to have been purchased by Malaysia's central bank and that McDonald's had issued renminbi denominated corporate bonds through Standard Chartered Bank of Hong Kong. Such liberalization allows the yuan to look more attractive as it can be held with higher return on investment yields, whereas previously that yield was virtually none. Nevertheless, some national banks such as Bank of Thailand (BOT) have expressed a serious concern about RMB since BOT cannot substitute the depreciated US Dollars in the 200 billion dollar Foreign Exchange Reserves held by BOT with Renminbi Yuan as much as BOT wishes because:

  1. The Chinese Government has not taken the full responsibilities and commitments on the economic affairs at the global levels.
  2. Renminbi Yuan still has not become well-liquidated (fully convertible) yet.
  3. The Chinese government still lacks deep and wide vision about how to perform fund-raising to handle international loans at global levels.

However HSBC expects the Renminbi to become the third major reserve currency in 2011.

Countries that are left-leaning in the political spectrum have also begun to use the Renminbi as an alternative reserve currency to the United States dollar; the Chilean central bank reported in 2011 to have US$91 million worth of Renminbi in reserves, and the president of the central bank of Venezuela, Nelson Merentes, made statements in favour of the Renminbi following the announcement of reserve withdrawals from Europe and the United States.

Use as a currency outside mainland China

The two special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, have their own respective currencies, according to the " one country, two systems" principle and the basic laws of the two territories. Therefore, the Hong Kong dollar and the Macanese pataca remain the legal tenders in the two territories, and renminbi, although sometimes accepted, is not legal tender. Banks in Hong Kong allow people to maintain accounts in RMB. Because of changes in legislation in July 2010, many banks around the world are now slowly offering individuals the chance to hold deposits in Chinese renminbi.

The RMB had a presence in Macau even before the 1999 return to the People's Republic of China from Portugal. Banks in Macau can issue credit cards based on the renminbi but not loans. Renminbi based credit cards cannot be used in Macau's casinos.

The Republic of China, which governs Taiwan, believes wide usage of the renminbi would create an underground economy and undermine its sovereignty. Tourists are allowed to bring in up to 20,000 renminbi when visiting Taiwan. These renminbi must be converted to the New Taiwan dollar at trial exchange sites in Matsu and Kinmen. The Chen Shui-bian administration insisted that it would not allow full convertibility until the mainland signs a bilateral foreign exchange settlement agreement, though president Ma Ying-jeou has pledged to allow full convertibility as soon as possible.

The renminbi is circulated in some of China's neighbors, such as Pakistan, Mongolia and northern part of Thailand. Cambodia welcomes the renminbi as an official currency and Laos and Myanmar allow it in border provinces. Though unofficial, Vietnam recognizes the exchange of the renminbi to the đồng.

April 2011: In Hong Kong, the Chinese property investment trust, Hui Xian has raised RMB 10.48 billion ($1.6 billion) in the first Initial Public Offering with denomination in Renminbi. Beijing has allowed renminbi-denominated financial markets to develop in Hong Kong because the central Chinese government wants to increase the usage of renminbi in international market and consequently reduce the use of the US dollar.

Since 2007, RMB-nominated bonds are issued outside the Mainland China; these are called " dim sum bonds".

Other markets

Since currency flows in and out of mainland China are still restricted, RMB traded on the Hong Kong market (known as CNH) can have a different value to RMB traded on the mainland. Other RMB markets include the dollar settled non-deliverable forward (NDF) and the trade-settlement exchange rate (CNT).


1 RMB to US dollar, since 1981

For most of its early history, the RMB was pegged to the U.S. dollar at 2.46 yuan per USD (note: during the 1970s, it was appreciated until it reached 1.50 yuan per USD in 1980). When China's economy gradually opened in the 1980s, the RMB was devalued in order to improve the competitiveness of Chinese exports. Thus, the official USD to RMB exchange rate declined from 1.50 yuan in 1980 to 8.62 yuan by 1994 (lowest ever on the record). Improving current account balance during the latter half of the 1990s enabled the Chinese government to maintain a peg of 8.27 yuan per USD from 1997 to 2005.

On January 14, 2013, the yuan briefly hit a record high rate of 6.2124 to the U.S. dollar during intra-day trading. Chinese leadership has been raising the yuan to tame inflation, a step U.S. officials have pushed for years to help repair the massive trade deficit with China.

Depegged from the U.S. dollar

On July 21, 2005, the peg was finally lifted, which saw an immediate one-off RMB revaluation to 8.11 per USD. The exchange rate against the euro stood at 10.07060 yuan per euro.

However the peg was reinstituted unofficially when the financial crisis hit: "Under intense pressure from Washington, China took small steps to allow its currency to strengthen for three years starting in July 2005. But China 're-pegged' its currency to the dollar as the financial crisis intensified in July 2008."

On June 19, 2010, the People’s Bank of China released a statement simultaneously in Chinese and English indicating that they would "proceed further with reform of the RMB exchange rate regime and increase the RMB exchange rate flexibility." The news was greeted with praise by world leaders including Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and Stephen Harper. The PBoC maintained there would be no "large swings" in the currency. The RMB rose to its highest level in five years and markets worldwide surged on Monday, June 21 following China's announcement.

China has shifted some of their reserves from dollar accounts to accounts in their competitor nations, leading these other nations to invest in dollars to keep their own currencies down.

Managed float

The RMB is now moved to a managed floating exchange rate based on market supply and demand with reference to a basket of foreign currencies. The daily trading price of the U.S. dollar against the RMB in the inter-bank foreign exchange market would be allowed to float within a narrow band of 0.3% around the central parity published by the People's Bank of China; in a later announcement published on May 18, 2007, the band was extended to 0.5%. On April 14, 2012, the band was extended to 1.0%. China has stated that the basket is dominated by the United States dollar, Euro, Japanese yen and South Korean won, with a smaller proportion made up of the British pound, Thai baht, Russian ruble, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar and Singapore dollar.

On April 10, 2008, it traded at 6.9920 yuan per US dollar, which was the first time in more than a decade that a dollar had bought less than seven yuan, and at 11.03630 yuan per euro.

Beginning in January 2010, Chinese and non-Chinese citizens have an annual exchange limit of a maximum of 50,000 USD. Exchange will only proceed if the applicant appears in person at the relevant bank and presents his passport or his Chinese ID; these deals are being centrally registered. The maximum withdrawal is 10,000 USD per day, the maximum purchase limit of USD is 500 per day. This stringent management of the currency leads to a bottled-up demand for exchange in both directions. It is viewed as a major tool to keep the currency peg, preventing inflows of ' hot money'.

A shift of Chinese reserves into the currencies of their other trading partners has caused these nations to shift more of their reserves into dollars, leading to no great change in the value of the Renminbi against the dollar.

Futures market

Renminbi futures are traded at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The futures are cash-settled at the exchange rate published by the People's Bank of China.

Purchasing power parity

Scholarly studies suggest that the yuan is undervalued on the basis of purchasing power parity analysis. One recent study suggests 37.5% undervaluation.

  • The World Bank estimated that, by purchasing power parity, one International dollar was equivalent to approximately RMB1.9 in 2004.
  • The International Monetary Fund estimated that, by purchasing power parity, one United States dollar was equivalent to approximately RMB3.462 in 2006, RMB3.621 in 2007, RMB3.798 in 2008, RMB3.872 in 2009, and RMB3.922 in 2010.
Current CNY exchange rates
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