Money printing plants across the country are running at close to full capacity to meet an unusually high quota set by the government this year, multiple sources from the China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation told the South China Morning Post.
Chinese yuan notes made up "a small proportion of the orders," with most of the demand coming from foreign countries participating in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, one source who asked not to be named told the South China Morning Post.
Until recently China did not print foreign currency at all, but in 2013 Beijing launched the Belt and Road Initiative, a plan that seeks to stimulate economic growth in around 60 countries from Europe, Africa and Asia through investment and infrastructure projects.
Two years later China began printing money for Nepal, and today foreign customers of China’s industry now also reportedly include Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India, Brazil and Poland and possibly many others that have not yet been disclosed, a source in the corporation said.
The state owned China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation corporation which is headquartered in Beijing’s Xicheng district describes itself as the world’s largest money printer by scale with 18,000 employees and 10 plants for printing paper notes and coins.
In comparison to its US counterpart, the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing employs fewer than 2,000 people.
China's attitude towards printing currency marks a change from previous low demand for printing as Chinese citizens have turned to using their phones rather than cash.
Hu Xingdou, a professor of economics at the Beijing Institute of Technology told the South China Morning Post that a nation must have considerable trust in the Chinese government to allow it to print its banknotes.
"The world economic landscape is undergoing some profound changes. As China becomes bigger and more powerful, it will challenge the value system established by the West. Printing money for other countries is an important step," Xingdou said.
"Currency is a symbol of a country’s sovereignty. This business helps build trust and even monetary alliances."
Leverage over currency can also be a powerful weapon. During the destruction of Libya and Muammar Gaddafi by the West seven years ago, the British government seized $1.5 billion Libyan dinars originally produced for the dictator by British currency printer De La Rue, which sparked shortages in the country and put pressure on the regime.
Beijing has been concerned that its enemies could use fake notes to disrupt its economy and has viewed the money printing capability being as important as it’s atomic bomb programme.
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