China Fires Shot Across Petrodollar Bow: Shanghai Futures Exchange May Price Crude Oil Futures In Yuan
With the US shale revolution set to make America the largest exporter of crude, however briefly, the influence of Saudi oil is rapidly declining. This has been felt most recently in the cold shoulder the US gave Saudi Arabia and Qatar first over the Syrian debacle, and subsequently in its overtures to break the ice with Iran over the stern objections of Israel and the Saudi lobby (for a good example of this the most recent soundbites by Prince bin Talal ). But despite the shifting commodity winds and the superficial political jawboning, the reality is that nothing threatens the US dollar’s hegemony in what many claim is the biggest pillar of the currency’s reserve status – the petrodollar, which literally makes the USD the only currency in which energy-strapped countries can transact in to purchase energy. This may be changing soon following news that the Shanghai Futures Exchange could price its crude oil futures contract in yuan, its chairman said on Thursday, adding that the bourse is speeding up preparatory work to secure regulatory approvals.
In doing so China is effectively lobbing the first shot across the bow of the Petrodollar system, and more importantly, the key support of the USD in the international arena.
This would be in keeping with China’s strategy to import about 100 tons of gross gold each and every month, in addition to however much gold it produces internally, in what many have also seen as a preparation for a gold-backed currency, which however would require a far broader acceptance of the renminbi in the international arena and most importantly, its intermediation in a crude pricing loop. It is precisely the latter that China is starting to focus on.
China, which overtook the United States as the world’s top oil importer in September, hopes the contract will become a benchmark in Asia and has said it would allow foreign investors to trade in the contract without setting up a local subsidiary.
“China is the only country in the world that is a major crude producer, consumer and a big importer. It has all the necessary conditions to establish a successful crude oil futures contract,” Yang Maijun, SHFE chairman, said at an industry conference.
Yang’s presentation slides at the conference stated that the draft proposal is for the contract to be denominated in yuan and use the type of medium sour crude that China most commonly imports.