The Zimbabwe Herald, the alleged newspaper and confirmed propaganda organ of the sanctioned Mugabe regime, is all excited by the launch of the China International Payment System (CIPS). The system, which was launched earlier this month, seeks to use SWIFT-formatted messages to facilitate cross-border payments in renminbi. Although the renminbi is the fourth most utilized currency for cross-border payments, it still only accounts for less than 3 percent of all such payments, making it doubtful that CIP will, at least any time soon, cause the renminbi to challenge the dollar, the euro or the pound sterling as an international currency.
So why are Mugabe’s minions so excited about CIPS? The headline says it all: China Unveils International Payment System – Checkmates Piracy of U.S. Treasury.” The image of OFAC flying a Jolly Roger over Treasury while the agency roams the seas, swigging rum and saying “Yo Ho Ho!” is, of course, a lively piece of propaganda right up there with that old chestnut “running capitalist dogs.” The story refers to sanctions on Zimbabwe as “illegal” no less than four times (for its slower readers) but fails to offer any theory of why exactly they are “illegal,” other than, I suppose, because Mugabe says so. (Dictators, naturally, have wide berth to say what is and isn’t legal.)
Of course, sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies and crony companies do make it difficult to engage in international trade given that the dollar constitutes about 45 percent of all such payments. Any dollar payment involving a sanctioned individual or company in Zimbabwe will be blocked the moment it hits a U.S. bank as it almost inevitably will. It’s doubtful that a renminbi payment system will provide any immediate or significant relief to Mugabe and company.
But I suppose everyone can dream, can’t they? (I’m a Cubs fan, so I should know.)