For 70 years, a key element of American power has been the dollar’s standing as the world’s premier currency. But Washington’s repeated use of economic sanctions as a foreign policy weapon has encouraged China and other powers to consider financial alternatives, write Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett.
Gold and Dollar Hegemony 1.0
Dollar primacy was first enshrined at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, where America’s non-communist allies acceded to Washington’s blueprint for a postwar international monetary order. Britain’s delegation — headed by Lord Keynes — and virtually every other participating country, save the United States, favored creating a new multilateral currency through the fledgling International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the chief source of global liquidity.
Oil and Dollar Hegemony 2.0
To this end, U.S. administrations from the mid-1970s devised two strategies. One was to maximize demand for dollars as a transactional currency. The other was to reverse Bretton Woods’ restrictions on transnational capital flows; with financial liberalization, America could leverage the breadth and depth of its capital markets, and it could cover its chronic current account and fiscal deficits by attracting foreign capital at relatively low cost. Forging strong links between hydrocarbon sales and the dollar proved critical on both fronts.
The China Challenge
Still, history and logic caution that current practices are not set in stone. With the rise of the “petroyuan,” movement towards a less dollar-centric currency regime in international energy markets — with potentially serious implications for the dollar’s broader standing — is already underway.
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett – consortiumnews