TIME China

These 5 Facts Explain Why China Is Still on the Rise

Chinese President Xi Jinping waits to welcome French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the Great Hall of the People on Jan. 30, 2015 in Beijing
red Dufour—Getty Images Chinese President Xi Jinping waits to welcome French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the Great Hall of the People on Jan. 30, 2015 in Beijing

China has had a terrible past few weeks, but that won't stop it's growing dominance

Stock market plunges, currency devaluations and warehouse fireballs out of China have dominated headlines this summer. But make no mistake—this is the opening of the “China Decade,” the moment when the emerging giant’s international influence crosses a crucial threshold. These five facts explain why China’s rise is inevitable, even in the face of bad news—and why it won’t last forever.

1. Rough Summer

Economic indicators have been pointing to a Chinese slowdown for some time—exports had already dropped 8 percent last month compared to the same time last year—but matters have come to a head these last couple of months. Between June 12 and July 8, the Shanghai stock market plummeted 32 percent. On July 27, the stock market fell 8.5 percent, its greatest single-day drop. To put that in perspective, “Black Tuesday,” which kicked off the Great Depression in 1929, saw the Dow plunge 12 percent. Markets under the thumb of autocratic regimes were thought to be immune to such wild swings; turns out they’re not.

On August 11th, the Chinese government devalued the renminbi to kick-start their slowing economy. By the end of the week, the currency’s value had fallen by 4.4 percent, its biggest drop in 20 years.

(The New York Times (a), CNN Money, The New York Times (b), TIME)

2. China’s Rise

Yes, growth is slowing, but to levels enviable in any developed country. In the mean time, China’s march to no. 1 continues. In 2014, China’s total GDP overtook the US’s when measured by purchasing power parity. Using this metric, China accounted for 16.32 percent of world GDP in 2014, eclipsing the US’s 16.14 percent.

More impressive than the size of China’s economy is the speed with which it’s grown. Back in 2000, Chinese imports and exports accounted for 3 percent of all global goods traded. By 2014, that figure had jumped to more than 10 percent. In 2006, the U.S. was a larger trade partner than China for 127 countries. China was the larger partner for just 70. Today, those numbers have reversed: 124 countries trade more with China than with the United States.

(International Monetary Fund, Financial Times, Russia Today)

3. China’s Resilience

And despite recent turmoil, China’s economy has staying power. That’s in part because China’s leadership has spent decades building its foreign exchange reserves, which today are valued at $3.7 trillion. That’s by far the world’s biggest rainy day fund.

More important than its money buffer is China’s consolidated political leadership under Xi Jinping. China’s president has presided over an extensive anti-corruption campaign that has already seen 414,000 officials disciplined and another 200,000 indicted. In the process, Xi has probably rebuilt some of the party’s lost credibility with China’s people. He has definitely sidelined current and potential opponents of his reform program—and of his rule. And the lack of backlash illustrates just how strong his political control really is.

(Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic)

4. Spreading Wealth (and Influence)

Consolidated leadership also enables Beijing to pursue its comprehensive global strategy. China has spent the last two decades tactically investing around the world. Chinese investments in Africa jumped from $7 billion in 2008 to $26 billion in 2013, helping the continent build desperately-needed roads, rails and ports. In Latin America, China has already pledged to invest $250 billion over the coming decade, giving Beijing a solid foothold in the West. This extends China’s influence well beyond East Asia, helps China secure long-term supplies of the commodities it needs to continue to power its economy, creates jobs for Chinese workers, and helps China open new markets for its excess supplies of industrial products.

China also wants to use its money to reshape the world’s financial architecture. To that end, Beijing just launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to rival the Washington-based IMF and World Bank. Given that 57 countries have signed up as founding members, some of them US allies who chose to ignore US objections, it’s well on its way. With initiatives like the AIIB, China will continue funding infrastructure projects—and building goodwill—for years to come.

(Bloomberg, BBC, Wall Street Journal)

5. Problems Ahead

All that said, China’s longer-term challenges are becoming impossible to ignore. By 2050, it’s estimated that China’s work force will have shrunk by 17 percent. Blame demographics—back in 1980, the median age in China was 22.1 years; in 2013, 35.4, and by 2050 it will rise to 46.3. An aging labor force is like an aging sports star: both want more money, and both are nowhere near as productive as they once were.

Pollution continues to take its toll—less than 1 percent of China’s 500 cities meet WHO air quality standards. China’s environment ministry concedes that nearly 2/3 of underground water and 1/3 of surface water is “unfit for human contact.” A new study estimated that 4,000 Chinese die prematurely each day thanks to air pollution. As China’s masses join a growing middle class, the leadership will have to deal with stronger public demand for clean air and water. Beijing better deliver if it wants to keep the peace, and its regime, intact. And the public will have the means to make its demands known: There are already 650 million Chinese people online, and censorship, however sophisticated, can never fully control the flow of ideas and information in a social media market of that scale—witness the information leaking out on the Tianjin blast. China’s leaders know they must care about public opinion.

(Bloomberg, UN Economic and Social Affairs, Council on Foreign Relations, Russia Today, CNN)

China’s growing strength threatens the established world order, but its domestic vulnerabilities will have global repercussions, as well. It’s still too early to tell which of the two will be more destabilizing. Either way, the world will be shaped by Beijing’s successes and its failures. Welcome to the China Decade.

TIME China

China Tries to Dampen Fears of More Devaluations Following 2.9% Drop

China Currency
AP—AP In this Aug. 11, 2015 photo, a bank clerk counts Chinese currency notes at a bank outlet in Huaibei in central China's Anhui province

Many economists said the decline was too small to help Chinese exports

(BEIJING) — China tried Thursday to ease fears of more big declines for the yuan as companies from global automakers to Chinese clothing exporters faced a new era of uncertain exchange rates.

There is “no basis for persistent and substantial devaluation,” said a deputy central bank governor, Zhang Xiaohui, at a news conference. Zhang said the yuan is close to “market levels” after two days of sharp declines.

By midday on Thursday, the yuan was down 2.9 percent since Tuesday’s surprise announcement of a more flexible exchange rate. The People’s Bank of China said the change was aimed at making the tightly controlled yuan more market-oriented.

Many economists said the decline was too small to help Chinese exports due to weak global demand. But the change fueled concern the yuan might fall further, giving Chinese traders a price advantage over foreign rivals and possibly igniting a “currency war” if other governments fight back by depressing their own exchange rates.

“The impact on foreign exporters is only beginning,” said Evan Lucas, a financial market strategist for the Australian firm IG Markets, in a report.

International traders have long coped with swings by the dollar, euro and other currencies. They can hedge, or insure against unfavorable changes, by signing contracts to buy them at fixed prices on future dates. Large manufacturers also put facilities in multiple locations, allowing them to switch production to lower-cost sites as currencies fluctuate.

On a larger scale, however, more flexibility could end the yuan’s status as a stable anchor among currencies of developing countries, said Rajiv Biswas, chief Asia economist for IHS.

If it leads to more devaluations, “it could increase uncertainty and turmoil in global currency markets,” said Biswas in an email.

At the news conference, the central bank’s chief deputy governor rejected suggestions Beijing planned to depreciate the yuan by up to 10 percent to help exporters.

“This is sheer nonsense. It is totally unfounded,” said the official, Yi Gang.

Financial markets responded to the central bank comments by boosting the yuan. The currency was down 0.8 percent at midmorning Thursday but after the news conference that narrowed to a 0.2 percent decline compared with Wednesday’s closing price.

“This should pour cold water on claims that the PBOC is trying to devalue the currency in order to shore up exports,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report. “A larger-scale weakening of the renminbi looks increasingly unlikely.”

The global implications of a more flexible yuan are magnified by China’s status as the world’s No. 2 economy and biggest exporter, the top trading partner for most of Asian neighbors and also a competitor with Japan, Korea, Thailand and others in foreign markets for steel, shoes, toys and other goods.

Under its latest policy change, the Chinese central bank said the band within which the yuan is allowed to fluctuate by 2 percent up or down each day will be based on the previous day’s trading and data on currency supply and demand. That replaced a strategy under which the rate was based on a basket of currencies.

The bank had allowed little movement against the dollar since the 2008 global crisis. That pushed up the yuan as the dollar rose over the past year, hurting Chinese exporters as other developing country currencies fell. The central bank said it acted because the Chinese currency was rising while market forces said should fall.

The move toward more flexibility at a time when market pressures were set to push the yuan down left Washington and other trading partners that have criticized Beijing’s currency controls off balance. They have urged China for years to switch to a market-based system but assumed that would cause the yuan to rise and help their own exporters.

That leaves the U.S. government in an “awkward and difficult” position, said Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University.

“A falling yuan and a rising bilateral U.S. trade deficit with China will sharpen congressional criticism of China’s currency policies,” he said.

“But the administration has no economic basis for criticizing China’s move,” said Prasad. “Indeed, preventing the yuan from depreciating further would run counter to U.S. and IMF calls for a more market-determined exchange rate.”

Financial analysts say the yuan could be overvalued by up to 10 percent. That would mean allowing market forces free rein might push it down even further.

For automakers and other global companies that increasingly rely on sales to China, that could erode revenues as they are brought home and converted into foreign currency. Already this year, Volkswagen and Hyundai have reported profit declines due to weaker Chinese sales. With many automakers reporting declines in July sales, such losses could be magnified by further weakening of the yuan.

Some Chinese exporters suspended signing contracts in foreign currencies, according to news reports.

The general manager for Japan sales of Anhui Garments Import & Export Co. said the company was waiting for exchange rates to stabilize, the newspaper China Business News reported.

“Right now we are not optimistic,” the manager, Meng Zhuo, was quoted as saying.

China’s Asian neighbors face a potentially wrenching transition as they cope with the two-pronged threat of more competition from its exports and weaker Chinese demand for their goods.

“The economies of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia and Thailand look exposed,” said Credit Suisse analysts Santitarn Sathirathai and Michael Wan in a report.

Manufacturers of computer disk drives have shifted some operations from Thailand to China and that outflow could accelerate if a weaker yuan reduces Chinese operating costs, according to Sathirathai and Wan.

Many economists saw Beijing’s policy change an effort to unload a glut of excess supplies in Chinese industries from steel to solar panel manufacturing that have led to price-cutting wars and threatened the financial health of manufacturers.

“What they are effectively doing is exporting deflation,” said Evans of IG Markets. “This is a concern from the perspective of foreign exporting.”

___

AP Economics Writer Paul Wiseman contributed.

TIME Currency

China Scrambles to Support Slipping Yuan

China Scraps Yuan Peg To US dollar
China Photos—Getty Images A clerk counts stacks of Chinese yuan at a bank on July 22, 2005 in Beijing, China.

Beijing is playing a dangerous game with its currency

China’s shocking move to devalue the yuan and to align it closer to market rates has caused the currency to fall to a four-year low. Now, the country’s central bank is intervening to stop the slide.

Sources close to the matter told The Wall Street Journal that the People’s Bank of China told state-owned banks to sell dollars to help stop the yuan’s slide relative to the American greenback, a move that comes after the yuan experienced its biggest two-day rout since 1994.

China roiled financial markets Tuesday after it announced it would weaken the midpoint of the yuan’s trading band by nearly 2% against the US dollar. That one-day shift was the biggest since China’s currency was officially de-pegged from the U.S. dollar in 2005.

That move, likely a reaction to China’s slowing economic growth rates and stock market slumps, caused a ripple effect worldwide, leaving the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 200 points at Tuesday’s close.

The yuan is facing “a vicious cycle of depreciation,” Dariusz Kowalczyk, a Hong Kong-based strategist at Credit Agricole CIB, told Bloomberg. “At some point they’ll either abandon the implementation of the new fixing mechanism and stabilize the fixing, or they’ll intervene heavily.”

The global response to China’s currency changes will test Beijing’s resolve in letting free-market forces decide the currency’s value. The People’s Bank tried to stem overseas worries by answering some key questions on its website. “In view of both domestic and international economic and financial condition, currently there is no basis for persistent depreciation of [China’s currency],” said a Bank spokesman in a statement online.

TIME China

China’s Yuan Slides in Value After Beijing Alters Exchange Rate Policies

China Money Rate Climbs To 2-Year High On Cash-Reserve Increase
Nelson Ching — Bloomberg via Getty Images A customer counts Chinese yuan bank notes in Beijing, China, on Dec. 15, 2010

The currency fell 1.3% against the U.S. dollar

(BEIJING) — China devalued its tightly controlled currency Tuesday following a slump in trade, allowing the yuan’s biggest one-day decline in a decade.

The central bank said the yuan’s fall was due to reforms aimed at making its exchange rate system more market-oriented. Sustained weakness in the yuan raises the risk of tensions with China’s trading partners.

China’s move makes it the third major economy to take actions that weakened their currencies. Initiatives by Japan and the European Union over the past two years depressed the yen and euro. But analysts cautioned against seeing the change as a direct effort to help Chinese exporters.

The yuan had strengthened along with the dollar, hurting exporters and raising the risk of politically dangerous job losses in manufacturing industries that employ tens of millions of workers. July exports fell by an unexpectedly large margin of 8.3 percent from a year earlier, according to data released on the weekend.

Tuesday’s move “signals a new government willingness” to let the currency decline, said USB economist Tao Wang in a report.

Beijing is likely to move cautiously but market expectations of more depreciation “could quickly become entrenched” and cause the yuan to “depreciate quite quickly and significantly,” said Wang. She said that would represent a “sea change in China’s exchange rate policy” but would help to support flagging economic growth.

The devaluation could present a dilemma for the United States and other governments that accuse Beijing of suppressing the yuan’s exchange rate, giving its exporters an unfair price advantage and hurting foreign competitors.

A weaker yuan might help Chinese exporters and prompt complaints by foreign manufacturers. But the central bank said its goal was to give market forces a bigger role, a step Washington has demanded for years.

The yuan, also known as the renminbi, is allowed to fluctuate in a band 2 percent above or below a rate set by the People’s Bank of China based on the previous day’s trading.

The bank said starting Tuesday that in addition to the previous day’s exchange rate, the daily fixing of the trading band will take into account supply and demand.

“This complex situation is posing new challenges,” said a central bank statement. It said a strong yuan is “not entirely consistent with market expectation” and this was a good time to adjust controls.

The center of Tuesday’s trading band was set 1.9 percent below Monday’s level. The yuan quickly fell 1.3 percent against the dollar and was down almost 1.9 percent at midday.

That was the biggest one-day decline since Beijing ended the yuan’s direct link to the U.S. dollar in July 2005 and switched to basing the exchange rate on a basket of foreign currencies. The composition of that basket is secret but the dollar appears to dominate it, which means the yuan has been rising even as the currencies of other developing countries fell.

The latest move doesn’t appear to be aimed at helping Chinese exporters even though it follows the weekend announcement of dismal July trade, said Mizuho Bank economist Vishu Varathan.

In a report, Varathan said the yuan has risen by about 3.5 percent per year since 2012 on a trade-weighted basis and the latest change only gives back part of that.

A sustained decline “risks abrasive international trade dynamics,” said Varathan. But he said a weaker yuan “could be ultimately positive for Asia” if it helps to revive Chinese demand for imports.

TIME

This Is the Woman Most Americans Are Hoping to See on the New $10 Bill

No, it's not Beyonce

Of the women being considered to replace Alexander Hamilton on the redesigned $10 bill, Eleanor Roosevelt is the favorite by far with more than one in four Americans favoring her over the other contenders.

The former first lady came in first place with 27% of the 1,249 votes counted in a McClatchy Marist poll that was released on Wednesday. Harriet Tubman and Sacagawea followed at second and third place, with 17% and 13% of the vote, respectively.

Martha Washington’s portrait was printed on money in the 19th century, but this will be the first time that a female figure is featured on U.S. currency in over a century. The new $10 bill will appropriately be released in 2020, the 100th anniversary celebration of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

After Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced the decision to replace Hamilton with a woman, the Treasury created a social media campaign dubbed #TheNew10 so that everyone could weigh in with their opinion. Aside from those named in the poll, suggestions included Rosa Parks and Amelia Earhart.

TIME Money

We Still Don’t Have Safe and Reliable Money

bitcoin-world-coins
Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

If we're going to have fast, reliable online transactions, we need a system that actually works

They said it was imminent. They said so two decades ago. But I am still waiting for a truly fast, reliable, and safe form of money for people—all 7 billion of us. So many other things that were once unimaginable to us are now true: we can connect with anyone on the planet almost instantaneously—to talk, see each other over video, and send each other pictures of our cats and dogs, even kids. But if we want to move a penny, or 10 rupees, it is no longer a brave new world, not even close. It’s virtually impossible for someone to easily transfer money to another at a low cost, unless both parties are physically present at the same place and same time.

Not so, you may protest. We have Apple Pay, Paypal, Google Wallet, Mastercard, Visa, M-Pesa, Bitcoin, hundreds of alt-coins spawned by Bitcoin, all of which claim that they will dethrone good old-fashioned cash off its mantle. But not so fast. Despite all the hype around the supposedly new-fangled digital alternatives to money, these remain either expensive or inconvenient. Credit card companies charge retailers two to three percent of any transaction, which we’re all paying for in the form of higher prices, passed on by merchants. Direct withdrawals from bank accounts are cheaper, but have traditionally taken a long time to clear, sometimes as long as a day.

The drawbacks of these digital alternatives are evidenced by the resilience of cash. Eighty-five percent of all transactions globally (and 40 percent in the U.S.) are still carried out using cash, particularly transactions involving small amounts of money. There are good reasons why that is the case. Cash is convenient. Cash is private. Cash is intuitive. Cash does not incur explicit transactions costs.

And yet cash is also cumbersome to carry and store. It can be stolen and forged, remains uninvested and usually loses purchasing power over time, and most importantly, cannot be transferred easily across large distances. And so, the pressing need for a digital currency that works.

If you are a cryptocurrency enthusiast, you are probably reading this with great impatience, eager to get to the discussion of how Bitcoin and its alternatives are the answer. Cryptocurrencies, which are digital, encrypted currencies that operate independently of a central bank, are almost costless to move instantaneously, offering both privacy and security. I am also a cryptocurrency enthusiast. But I am not ready to declare victory. At least, not yet.

First, transactions using cryptocurrencies are not convenient. They are not intuitive. Just watch someone pay for coffee at a coffee shop that accepts bitcoin as payment (there are some). Only geeks are likely to find it simple and easy to use. You may protest that this is what people said about email and Internet 20 years ago and look where we are now. Perhaps so. But the transition to electronic money will not be as easy or as simple. Why? Because we are talking about money. Bitcoin’s “blockchain” technology keeps a permanent, public, and seemingly inviolable record of all transactions, which is distributed publicly across many private computer servers around the world in a decentralized fashion. It’s brilliant, elegant, and revolutionary—but also, to quote the author Nathaniel Popper, “one big hack away from total failure.”

Money attracts both fraud and regulation. And uncertainty. Financial regulators are conservative, wary of any new technology that is easy to use and accessible, unless it be proven completely fraud-proof (an impossible standard).

And so, regulators are over-zealous in clamping down on innovation. They will reflexively (and absurdly) invoke “Know your customer” (KYC) regulations and “Anti Money-Laundering” (AML) requirements every time someone proposes something new. It’s as if regulators never want to hear the benefits that might come from financial innovation, however much they might offset any potential downside. But someone who designs a faster car should not be prevented from manufacturing and selling it lest thieves use it get away after robbing a bank. We need to rely on other means of deterring crime.

When we discourage innovation and proliferation of convenient, secure, and costless digital alternatives to money for fear of money-laundering and related crime, we are continuing to disenfranchise nearly 3 billion poor people in the world who would benefit the most from the financial inclusion that frictionless digital money and payments will generate for them.

Here is a concrete example. Imagine that a woman working as a day laborer in India earns 100 rupees on a given day. She may go to a grocery store on her way back home to buy goods worth 80 rupees. If technology made it possible for her to deposit the remaining 20 rupees (which is only about 30 cents) immediately in an account that earns interest or put it immediately in an investment that is expected to grow, without incurring any transactions costs, this could transform her life. Even “small” transactions costs of 5 or 10 cents per transaction would induce her to keep the money in the form of cash, which would not only fail to grow, but may be spent in an impulse purchase by her husband or children.

Similarly, a migrant worker should be able to send money he or she earns nearly free of transaction costs to the family that may live in a different city, or even a different country. Nearly $600 billion of such remittances are currently made across borders. And they are expensive, outrageously so. Nearly 7 percent is lost in intermediation.

How about services such as the mobile phone money transfer business M-Pesa, which is ubiquitous in Kenya? Given the lack of banking alternatives that exist in many African countries, M-Pesa services have deservedly received attention and acclaim from media, policy makers, and global development advocates such as Bill Gates. But even services such as M-Pesa have high transactions costs.

Given the revolution in communication technologies, and how they’ve transformed so many non-monetary domains, it seems reasonable to demand that in the near future we do away with most everyday transactions costs, which are unnecessary. We should shoot for a one- or two-tenths of a percent as an acceptable fee, whether we are seeking to pay with our Apple Watch at the corner deli or seeking to pay for a meal in rural India.

How do we get there?

First, financial institutions need to abandon the stupid idea that every transaction, no matter how small, must be verified. Every time I buy a cup of coffee using some form of electronic money, the retailer need not check with Visa or my bank if I have money or I am credit-worthy to be offered an implicit credit of a few dollars. Such verification should happen infrequently, only when the aggregate amount in question has reached a large predetermined amount. After all, most people have reputation capital these days; in our increasingly interconnected world, even sellers on e-Bay from far-off places like Guangzhou in China can be “trusted” given their reputation scores.

Second, the new digital money needs to feel simple, intuitive, and easy to use even in even the most illiterate parts of the world. You often hear experts advocating financial literacy and educational programs to “teach” people how to use new technology-based money. But the most effective adoptions happen when people learn by imitation. So, this electronic money must become ubiquitous. People should see it being used by rich and poor alike and in developed and developing countries in essentially similar ways. No one offered cell phone literacy classes or programs when the technology was introduced, but cell phones quickly went from being aspirational objects to being widely adopted as the costs fell sufficiently low. Now more people use cell phones than toilets in the world. In the same way, electronic money is likely to grow when middle-class consumers start using it regularly, even when transacting with the poor.

Lastly, the dream of the libertarian cryptocurrency enthusiasts that money will become totally anonymous, far from the reach of the government and inept regulators, is not practical. We want technology that empowers individuals, but we need shared institutions such as the courts and regulators that protect people and the integrity of the currency being used. After all, 7 billion people aren’t going to make the transition purely on faith.

Bhagwan Chowdhry is a professor of finance at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and the co-founder of Financial Access at Birth. More about him can be found here.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY women

These 10 Countries Already Have Women on Their Currency

And here's a look at the bills themselves.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Wednesday night that it will put the image of a woman on the new $10 bill in 2020.

No figure has yet been selected for the honor, but it will be a woman who played a major role in U.S. history and was a champion of democracy.

Got any suggestions? The government will be soliciting input from the public on a new website it plans to launch soon and on Twitter using the hashtag #TheNew10. “We’re going to spend a lot of time this summer listening to people,” said Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

If you’re looking for inspiration, you should know that at least 10 other nations, including Syria, the Philippines, and Israel, have already recognized female leaders on their banknotes—all of which you can see in the gallery below.

Read next: Who Should Be the First Woman On a Modern Dollar Bill?

  • Syria

    Queen Zenobia
    Khaled Al-Hariri—Reuters/Corbis

    Syria’s current image is that of a nation wracked by civil war and struggling against the violent militant group ISIS. But it outpaced the United States on one sign of social progress: recognizing women on official currency.

    Syrian Queen Zenobia, known for fighting back against Roman colonizers in the second century AD, appears on the 500-pound note.

     

  • Philippines

    Philipine 500 and 1000 peso notes
    Edwin Tuyay—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    During the mid-1980s, the Philippines introduced a 500-peso note featuring prominent senator Benigno Aquino Jr., who had been assassinated in 1983. His wife, Corazon Aquino, went on to become the first female president of the Philippines—and the first female president in Asia, for that matter—and her image was added to the bill after she died in 2009. Early 20th-century suffragette Josefa Llanes Escoda also appears (alongside two men) on the 1000-peso note.

  • Turkey

    Nick Fielding—Alamy

    In Turkey, the current 50-lira note features turn-of-the-century novelist and women’s rights activist Fatma Aliye Topuz on its reverse side. (The first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, appears on the front of every bill.)

  • Mexico

    500 Mexican pesos notes on a table with traditional Mexican ornament. The note has the portrait of the painter Diego Riviera on one side and Frida Kahlo on the other.
    Daniel Sambraus—Getty Images

    Mexico’s 500-peso note shows muralist Diego Rivera on the front and his wife and fellow artist Frida Kahlo on the back. Her image is a 1940 self-portrait, alongside a famous painting of hers from 1949, “Love’s Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego and Señor Xólotl.” Seventeenth-century Mexican writer Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz appears on the 200-peso note.

  • Argentina

    Eva Peron (1919-1952) on 2 Pesos 2001 Banknote from Argentina. Second wife of President Juan Peron.
    Georgios Kollidas—Alamy

    Argentina’s beloved former First Lady Eva Perón—widely known by her nickname “Evita”—appears on the current 100-peso bill. The 20-peso note depicts 19th-century Argentine political activist Manuela Rosas along with her father, politician Juan Manuel de Rosas.

  • New Zealand

    New Zealand 10 Ten Dollar Bank Note
    Glyn Thomas—Alamy

    Like many other former British colonies, New Zealand features Queen Elizabeth II on its currency—the 20-dollar note to be precise. But Kiwi banknotes also honor suffragette Kate Sheppard, who in 1893 helped New Zealand become the first country in the world with universal voting rights for both men and women. Her image appears on the 10-dollar bill.

  • Israel

    Wikimedia Commons A portrait of Israeli poet Rachel Bluwstein, who lived from 1890 to 1931.

    The Bank of Israel recently announced that it will be adding images of two female Israeli writers to forthcoming 20- and 100-New Shekel banknotes, respectively. The former will feature turn-of-the-century poet Rachel Bluwstein, and the latter author, poet, and literary expert Leah Goldberg, who died in 1970.

  • Sweden

    Artwork showing the designs of new folding Swedish krona, or kronor, currency notes due to be issued in 2014 stands on display at the Riksbank in Stockholm, Sweden, on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013.
    Bloomberg via Getty Images—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Imagery on the krona celebrates several women in Sweden’s history. Currently there’s Selma Lagerlöf—the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature—on the 20-krona note, as well as 19th-century opera singer Jenny Lind on the 50-krona bill. Starting this fall, a new line of banknotes will feature Pippi Longstocking author Astrid Lindgren on the 20-krona, 20th-century soprano Birgit Nilsson on the 500-krona, and classic film actress Greta Garbo on the 100-krona note.

  • Australia

    An Australian one-hundred dollar banknote
    Carla Gottgens—Bloomberg via Getty Images Dame Nellie Melba on the Australian 100-dollar banknote

    Australia has one woman on either the front or back of every banknote currently in circulation. They include Queen Elizabeth II on the front of the $5 bill, social reformer and writer Dame Mary Gilmore on the back of the $10, 19th-century businesswoman Mary Reibey on the front of the $20, politician and social worker Edith Cowan on the back of the $50, and turn-of-the-century soprano Dame Nellie Melba on the front of the $100 note.

  • England

    Jane Austen to feature on banknote. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, with the ten pound note featuring Jane Austen at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, near Alton. The Austen note will be issued within a year of the Churchill £5 note, which is targeted for issue during 2016.
    Chris Ratcliffe—PA Wire/Press Association Images The new Jane Austen £10 note will look like this.

    If featuring women on currency were a contest, the Bank of England would win, with every note since 1960 depicting Queen Elizabeth II on the front. Past bills featured nurse and statistician Florence Nightingale on the back, current 5-pound notes show 19th-century social reformer Elizabeth Fry, and the next 10-pound bill will celebrate famed 19th-century author Jane Austen.

TIME Money

U.S. to Put a Woman on the Redesigned $10 Bill in 2020

The Treasury Department will announce whose face will grace the currency at a later date

The U.S. plans to put a woman on the $10 bill, announcing Wednesday that the next $10 bill will feature the likeness of a woman who has played a major role in American history and has been a champion for democracy.

The new note, anticipated to be released in 2020, would be unveiled just in time for the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which secured women’s suffrage. “America’s currency makes a statement about who we are and what we stand for as a nation,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on a call Wednesday.

Just who the woman will be, however, has not been determined yet. The Department of Treasury launched a campaign to garner public input on what the next bill should look like. Over the summer, the Treasury Department will host town-hall meetings and engage with the public digitally about the bill’s design.

“The public outreach is going to give us a chance to hear from the American people about their ideas for what kind of symbols, ideas, and representation should be on the $10 bill,” Lew said.

While the outreach to the public is novel and in line with the bill’s theme of “democracy,” the final selection of look will be traditional. After public comments close, the Department will make the ultimate decision of what the bill looks like and Lew later announce whose face will be featured. The new bill will also include enhanced security components and a new feature that will make it easier for the blind and visually impaired to handle.

For months, there’s been a large movement to get a woman on the bill, including a charge led by a 9-year-old girl, who wrote a letter to President Obama asking why American currency was so male-dominated. The advocacy group Women on 20s, however, has been calling for a woman’s face to appear on the $20, in part due to Andrew Jackson’s role in the slave trade and the killing of many Native Americans.

Lew said while there is a “happy coincidence” in the timing of their announcement and the calls for action, the $10 bill had been set to undergo a redesign for some time. “The Women on 20 campaign reflects the best tradition of American democracy,” he said. “The planning of this has gone back several years.”

And the change has been a long time coming.

Alexander Hamilton has been the face of the $10 bill since 1929 and, according to the Federal Reserve, there were 1.9 billion bills in circulation at the end of 2014. The last woman to appear on a bill, however, dates all the way back to the 19th century, when Martha Washington appeared on the $1 silver certificate from 1891 to 1896. Before that, Pocahontas appeared in a group photo on the $20 national bank note.

“Our Democracy is a work in progress. We’ve always been committed to becoming a more perfect union,” Lew said. “This decision of putting a woman on the $10 bill reflects our aspirations for the future as much as a reflection of the past.”

U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios, however, says for many in the U.S. it will mean a bit more.

“For many of us who have daughters, who have sisters, aunts and mothers, I think for all of all us — we go with what we know. Having something on the note that touches the American public every day is very symbolic not just for today, but for our future,” she said.

The public is being invited to engage in the discussion on who is on the next bill online through the website thenew10.treasury.gov and using the hashtag #TheNew10. The main criteria for the next portrait is the subject must be deceased.

TIME Currency

This Experiment Shows Why You Should Take Bitcoin Seriously

Newest Innovations In Consumer Technology On Display At 2015 International CES
Ethan Miller—Getty Images A general view of the Bitcoin booth at the 2015 International CES at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 8, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

NASDAQ is using a key bitcoin technology

The technology that powers the cryptocurrency bitcoin could soon become much more important to the global financial system.

NASDAQ is planning to pilot a new transaction-tracking system on one of its smaller markets that makes use of blockchain technology, a key component in the bitcoin system. A blockchain is a public ledger that keeps track of transactions within a digital currency by logging them across various computers. The computers work in tandem to ensure the authenticity of a transaction. This automated process allows for transactions to be decentralized from a central bank or money issuer, which speeds up the rate at which a buy or sell can occur.

Instead of using bitcoin, NASDAQ will apply this technology to securities bought and sold on a market for private companies. Shares in these companies are often bought and sold using a slow, informal system in which lawyers must manually verify transactions, according to the Wall Street Journal. The blockchain could significantly increase the pace at which trades can be executed.

NASDAQ calls the plan to use blockchain technology an “enterprise-wide initiative.” The financial sector has expressed a keen interest in bitcoin and its tech. The New York Stock Exchange and Goldman Sachs, among others, have already invested in bitcoin-related companies. Even if bitcoin fails as a currency, many observers have said the blockchain technology behind it could have promising use cases in finance and other fields.

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