TOKYO – It turns out growing 8.1% wasn’t the most important 2021 milestone for China’s economy. That honor goes to Beijing’s currency topping the yen to become the fourth-most used for cross-border payments.

In a year in which Covid-19 disruptions savaged gross domestic product (GDP) around the globe, President Xi Jinping’s economy managed to advance at the fastest rate in a decade. Yet the real pay-off for his Communist Party is that its five-year-plus plan to internationalize the yuan paid serious dividends.

According to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT, China’s currency accounted for roughly 2.7% of the market. Granted, that’s a fraction of the US dollar’s 41% share.