The Size and the Main Determinants of China’s Official Currency Reserves in the Period 1990-2019

Piotr Misztal
European Research Studies Journal, Volume XXIV, Issue 1, 568-582, 2021
DOI: 10.35808/ersj/1981


Purpose: This paper aims to analyze the size of China's Central Bank's foreign exchange reserves and the main determinants of changes in China's foreign reserves. The publication attempts to prove two theses. According to the first thesis, the current foreign exchange reserves level in China has been higher than the optimal level suggested by the foreign exchange reserves adequacy ratios. However, in line with the second thesis, the most important factors determining China's foreign exchange reserves were changes in the value of imports and changes in the level of China's short-term foreign debt. Design/Methodology/Approach: The study uses a research method based on literature studies in the field of banking and international finance and econometric methods (the classic least squares method). The selection of these research methods and their use are elements of the author's approach to the problem of the optimal level of foreign exchange reserves in China. Findings: Research revealed that for almost the entire period 1990-2019, the value of China's foreign exchange reserves was higher than the optimal values, as suggested by the adequacy ratios of currency reserves. The exceptions were the ratio of the optimal level of foreign exchange reserves, calculated as 20% of the M2 money supply, and the ratio calculated by the IMF methodology for countries with constant exchange rates. China's relatively high foreign exchange reserves were adequately hedged against the possible effects of economic crises, while the relatively high level of these reserves led to their low profitability. The analysis results indicated that changes in the value of China's foreign exchange reserves were, to the greatest extent, determined by the inflow of foreign direct investment and changes in import expenditure. Practical Implications: The discussion on the accumulation of foreign reserves should have practical implications and be set to eliminate threats, not to individual economies but to maintain global financial stability in the world. On the other hand, the currency reserves adequacy indicators themselves should be used flexibly and should reflect individual countries' economic specificities. Originality: So far, no such comprehensive research has been carried out on the magnitude and determinants of China's foreign reserves changes. What is more, the analysis covers a long period of research (1990-2019) and is based on the proprietary model, estimated with the use of econometric tools.

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