For the world monetary system, the financial crisis which erupted in the summer of 2007 is a cataclysmic shift that will prove every bit as significant as the outbreak of the First World War (which heralded sterling’s demise as a reserve currency) and the suspension of gold convertibility in 1971 (which marked the end of bullion’s monetary role).
The crisis marks the passing of an era in which the U.S. dollar has been the world’s undisputed reserve currency for making international payments and storing wealth.
The dollar is not about to lose its reserve status completely. But it is set to become less “special”. In future, it will increasingly have to share its reserve status with the euro, the yen and perhaps the currencies of the other advanced economies. In time, it may even have to share its status with China’s yuan.
In fact, the whole concept of a single reserve currency (the dollar) and a principal reserve asset (U.S. Treasury bonds) is set to undergo a profound shift. Policymakers, businesses and households will in future think about and hold a whole portfolio of competing reserve currencies and assets. Multipolarity in the world of security and economic relations is set to be matched by a world with multiple reserve currencies.