CGTN was given rare access to the Shanghai International Energy Exchange, or I-N-E, to learn about the yuan-dollar competition. (CGTN photo / Lan Hao)
Shanghai is getting into the oil futures game
To keep China moving requires high energy, mainly from oil. If supply can't meet demand, the economy could stall. With its own reserves dwindling, China has to rely heavily on imports, steering it into competition with others. As China wants to break the energy shortage bottleneck, seeking alternative sources becomes a strategic choice. And that prompted the establishment of China's oil futures contract early this year.
"The international oil price and security situation will cause fluctuations in the crude oil supply. The international supply directly affects the company's interests. The company wants to lock in stable sources with good price," said Peng Yi, Assistant Manager, Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Company Limited.
"China has brought in foreign investors, allowing them to trade in onshore crude oil futures. It has guaranteed operations on internationalization of transaction, settlement and delivery," said Wang Xiaojiong, CEO, BOC International Futures Limited.
China has surpassed the U.S. as the world's biggest oil importer. Amid its increasing reliance on imported oil, the introduction of the crude futures contract is being viewed as a significant move by Beijing to exercise its pricing power.
Will yuan challenge the dollar's dominance?
China has committed to opening up its financial market even further and embrace international norms to give foreign traders new opportunities. One breakthrough is the establishment of the Shanghai crude futures contract earlier this year. It's the first commodity futures contract in the country to invite participation by foreign traders. Under the current trade tensions with the United States, the oil futures operation bears even greater significance in reshaping the future economy.
Over the decades, the country's futures market has been growing rapidly. It has launched several contracts, including steel, iron ore and copper. All have become liquidity benchmarks. The futures contracts for "black gold", which set the global energy price, seem a natural choice that could help China ensure energy security.
JP Morgan's Rochelle Wei says, with China's commitment to opening up, the country has to provide a bigger role for the RMB as an international currency. She said with the introduction of I-N-E crude oil futures, the denominated RMB is actually providing an important hedge instrument to industry players.
Crude oil futures are a new battlefield between the yuan and the dollar. It's a test of how far China can go in the next round of reforms. And what the mindset change is in market liberalization. The two dominant benchmarks are Brent in the UK and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) in the U.S..