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Chinese yuan's new global challenge to the dollar

Chinese yuan, pegged to the dollar until not long ago, is turning into a global reserve currency.

A 100 Chinese yuan banknote is placed next to a US 100 dollar banknote in this photo illustration taken in Beijing on Sept. 24, 2010.

Petar Kujundzic/Reuters/File

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Nigeria, West Africa's largest economy, is selling US dollars for Chinese yuan.

Nigerian Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi said in Beijing on Sept. 6 that Africa's top oil exporter will convert as much as 10 percent of its $33 billion in foreign reserves from US dollars into Chinese yuan. Central banks use foreign reserves to manage their own currency's value.

In Nigeria's case, the up to 10 percent ($3.3 billion) it may convert to yuan isn't an enormous sum – not, at least, for the oil-rich exporter. What is enormous, economists say, is what the bank's decision says: The yuan, pegged to the dollar until not long ago and managed more recently to keep Chinese exports cheap – is turning into a global reserve currency. Africa – particularly West Africa – may be China's earliest, easiest zone of success.

The rise of China's yuan as a global currency – trusted by central banks, accepted by finance ministries, routinely used to purchase raw goods – is "inevitable," Mr. Sanusi said, putting his mouth where his money is.

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