The geopolitics of money is shifting up a gear


IN THE PAST few years the Western-led infrastructure behind globalisation has fallen into disrepair even as China has been building credible alternatives. The World Trade Organisation is in tatters, the IMF and World Bank are struggling for relevance and tarnished by scandal, and no one can agree on global rules to govern technology.

There is an exception to this dismal picture: the global payments system that underpins the dominance of Western currencies, particularly the dollar. Over the past year one of its main networks, SWIFT, carried $140trn of transactions, a record level and the equivalent of about 150% of global GDP. It is an impressive sum but more must be done to modernise the payments architecture if its pre-eminence is to last.

The way money flows around the world is still overwhelmingly under the control of liberal democracies. Payments typically happen in the dollar and to a lesser extent the euro, pound and yen. This is, on…

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