China’s Most Recent Gold-Buying Spree Tops 100 Tons
China has accumulated more than 100 tons of gold since it resumed buying the yellow metal last December in a quest to diversify its reserves away from the US dollar.
The People’s Bank of China added another 5.9 tons of gold to its hoard in September, according to data on its website reported by Bloomberg. It was the 10th straight month of gold-buying for the Chinese central bank and it added to the 99.8 tons accumulated during the prior nine months.
Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. economist Howie Lee told Bloomberg he expects the Chinese to keep buying gold as the country continues to gain prominence on the world stage.
Given strained relations with the US, China needs a hedge against its large holdings of the dollar, and gold serves that function. As China becomes a superpower in its own right, I expect more gold-buying.”
Mainstream reporting is focusing on the trade war, saying the Chinese are buying gold as a “buffer” against Trump’s tariffs and the negative impacts of the trade spat. But there are deeper geopolitical reasons for the move. China, along with other countries like Russia, is hoping to undermine the ability of the US to weaponize the dollar as a foreign policy tool. The broader global gold rush on the part of central banks is part of this movement.
It’s not just America’s “enemies” that are moving away from the greenback. Europe has joined the de-dollarization party. Meanwhile, the percentage of US dollars held as currency reserves globally dropped to the lowest level in nearly six years in the second quarter of 2019 according to IMF data.
Only Russia has outpaced the Chines in gold purchases. Russia added another 12.2 tons of gold to its hoard in July. That pushed its purchases on the year to just over 106 tons. Russia has also aggressively divested itself of dollars. The Russians sold off nearly all of its US Treasury holdings last year. According to Bank of America analysts, the amount of US dollars in Russian reserves fell from 46% to 22% in 2018.
Recently, Russia’s top oil producer dumped the dollar. Rosneft made the euro the default currency for all exports of crude oil and refined products beginning last month. The company ranks as one of the world’s biggest oil producers. According to Reuters, the move is “to reduce the state-controlled firm’s vulnerability to potential fresh US sanctions.”
China has felt the sting of US threats before. In 2017, the US threatened to lock China out of the dollar system if it didn’t follow UN sanctions on North Korea.
In December 2018, the People’s Bank of China announced the first addition of gold to its reserves since 2016. The Chinese have a history of going long periods without officially adding gold to its stores and then suddenly revealing a large increase in its reserves. In 2009, the People’s Bank of China stopped reporting its gold holdings. Then in June 2015, the Chinese central bank suddenly announced its gold hoard had grown by 57%.
For a little more than a year, the PBOC regularly announced additions to its gold reserves. Chinese gold holdings rose another 185 tons over the next 16 months before the bank suddenly went silent again.
During the last gold-buying spree, China was pushing for the inclusion of the yuan in the International Monetary Fund’s benchmark currency basket.
Many analysts believe China holds far more gold than it officially reveals. As Jim Rickards pointed out on Mises Daily back in 2015, many people speculate that China keeps several thousand tons of gold “off the books” in a separate entity called the State Administration for Foreign Exchange (SAFE). Given the political dynamics and the ongoing trade war, it seems unlikely the Chinese suddenly stopped increasing their gold reserves in 2016.
China isn’t alone in buying gold. In total, the world’s central banks accumulated 651.5 tons of gold last year and that trend has continued in 2019. The World Gold Council noted that 2018 marked the highest level of annual net central bank gold purchases since the suspension of dollar convertibility into gold in 1971, and the second-highest annual total on record. According to the World Gold Council, a dozen central banks have increased their gold reserves by at least 1 ton through the first seven months of 2019.
During an interview on RT Boom Bust, Peter Schiff called this a “global gold rush on the part of central banks” in preparation for a dollar crisis.
The days that the dollar is a reserve currency are numbered and the smart central banks are trying to buy as much gold as they can before the number is up.”