Currency & Denominations in China

  • 24 May 2012 10:00 am

The official name of the currency of the Peopleʼs Republic of China is renminbi. The international abbreviation is CNY, while RMB is used in China.

The units are yuán (the largest unit), jiǎo (10 jiǎo = 1 yuán) and fen (10 fen = 1 jiǎo), 1 yuán = 10 jiǎo = 100 fen. Colloquially, “kuai” is often used instead of “yuan” e.g. “5 kuai” instead of “5 yuán”. In general “kuai” is used for the largest unit of any currency, i.e. you would say “5 kuai” instead of “5 dollar”. Also, most people call the jiǎo (0.1 yuán) “mao”.

There are bank notes in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1 yuán, 5, 2, 1 jiǎo and 5, 2 and 1 fen. 1 yuán, 5 and 1 jiǎo and 5, 2 and 1 fen coins are available. All 5th edition bank notes (printed and issued: October 1, 1999) feature Mao Zedong on the face, while the images on the back depict cultural highlights of China. However, there are still many 4th edition notes in circulation. Today, jiǎo coins are seldom used and very few fen coins are in circulation. They are still issued when exchanging foreign currency into RMB at banks, but otherwise they are useless. Even if the price of a product is marked with fen in a supermarket, it is rounded off to jiǎo.

The proposal to increase the highest note denomination from 100 to 500 yuán has been under debate for quite some time, but has not been accepted yet. The rich, for whom the 100 yuán note is not enough, can pay by card, while for the poor, a 100 yuán note is a rarity.

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