Russia Turns to China’s Yuan in Effort to Ditch the Dollar

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Russia’s economy, restricted from Western financial networks and the U.S. dollar, has embraced a burgeoning alternative: the Chinese yuan.

Energy exporters are increasingly getting paid in yuan. Russia’s sovereign-wealth fund, a war chest to support government spending burdened by battlefield costs in Ukraine, is using the Chinese currency to store its oil riches. Russian companies have borrowed in yuan, also known as renminbi, and households are stashing savings in it.

The Chinese currency’s rise inside Russia deepens ties between two countries that have long rivaled each other for global influence but have grown closer amid shared discontent with the West. It also serves China’s long standing but mostly frustrated campaign to make the yuan a more prominent feature of global finance and commerce.

Moscow has jettisoned concerns about giving China too much leverage over its economy, said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Now it’s the only rational choice for Russia and for Putin,” Mr. Gabuev said. “If depending on renminbi is the lifeline that helps you to be less exposed and less dependent on hostile currencies, then you take this route.”

A spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Finance said the yuan is “taking an increasingly important role” in its sovereign-wealth fund, which doubled the share of yuan it can hold to 60% in December. The ministry started selling yuan in January to plug its widening budget deficit.

The share of Russian exports paid for in yuan rose to 14% by September, according to data from the central bank. That is up from 0.4% before the start of the war.