Sunday, March 4, 2012


From Wikipedia:
The Renminbi (Chinese: 人民币) is the official currency of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It is the legal tender inmainland China, but not in Hong Kong and Macau. It is abbreviated as RMB, and the units for the Renminbi are the Yuan (元), Jiao(角), and Fen (分): 1 Yuan = 10 Jiao. Banknotes range from one jiao to one hundred yuan, and vary both in size and colour. The distinction between the Renminbi and the Yuan is similar to the distinction between the British Sterling and Pound. Renminbi refers to the whole Chinese money system whereas Yuan is the base unit of Renminbi. Yuan is used to denominate bills, and is the unit in which prices are measured.

Chinese money is pretty. The 100 yuan bill is pink! It has a picture of Chairman Mao on it, which I think shows a certain sense of history and flair lacking in today's Russian and German money. It is also the largest denomination. It is currently worth about $15.87 American. It works fine for the common laborer or shop girl who make 800 a month, but it becomes kind of cumbersome for the newly minted wealthy folks of today's China. A person paying cash for a new car, which is a common occurrence, needs another car just to use the trunk to transport the purchase price. Boxcars are required to move illicit wealth about!
At the same time, taxi drivers and small shop owners become incensed when having to make change for a hundred. So we all walk around with wads of smaller bills just to keep daily commerce convenient. I asked a friend who works in a bank if he foresaw a larger bill in the future, perhaps a 500, or 1,000. He said he didn't because counterfeiting is a concern.
This is problem here. Any time you give a clerk a 100, they hold the bill to the light to see the ghost figure of Mao that appears. There is also a holographic strip. I once got a counterfeit 10 yuan bill which was a little sad. Why would someone risk harsh Chinese penalties to produce such a small bill? Insecurity? Kind of like using a Glock to steal some kid's lunch money.
Speaking of banks, they have service that makes most American DMV offices seem warm, fuzzy and hyper responsive. You can wait hours to do a simple transaction. I believe that it is because it is difficult to find people with both the skill to perform accountancy and the strength to move wheelbarrows of pink 15 dollar bills around. They also are protected by 2 inch bulletproof glass, which tends to make one feel impervious to the needs of one's fellow person.

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