As China rises, the yuan achieves major milestone

WASHINGTON - It'sa historic milestone for China, and yet another sign of the country's rising global economic might.

The Chinese yuan will join a basket of the world's leading currencies, the International Monetary Fund announced Monday. The global lender said the yuan, also known as the renminbi, "met all existing criteria" to be included with the U.S. dollar, euro, Japanese yen and the British pound as one of the currencies used for the global organization's Special Drawing Rights, which serves as a standard for dealing with the financial reserves of its 188 member governments.

China is the world's second-largest economy. Currency traders and economists say the move should encourage the government in Beijing to deliver on promises to make the yuan "freely tradable" and to open up its financial system. The country has historically pegged its currency to the dollar, giving it an advantage in exporting goods to the United States and helping it to emerge as a manufacturing powerhouse.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the inclusion was "clearly an important milestone in a journey that had begun months, if not years ago to a "market-driven" economy in China. The decision was based off the volume of exports involving the yuan and its use in the financial markets.

Further financial modernization in China "will bring about a more robust international monetary and financial system, which in turn will support the growth and stability of China and the global economy," she predicted.

Lagarde said she would have reserved judgment about the yuan's addition a year ago. But China reformed the openness of its policies in setting interest rates and the transparency of its data. The IMF chief said the decision was an "indication of the reforms that have been implemented and will continue to be implemented."

The IMF's decision is set to take effect in October 2016.

The yuan's entry into the reserve currency club comes as China works to shift from an economy based on manufacturing and massive government spending on infrastructure to one driven by consumer spending. The transition has been bumpy, with the country's sharply slowing economic growth raising fears of global recession and roiling markets around the world.