Back in 2009, the west was desperately seeking green shoots of recovery and paid little attention when Zhou Xiaochuan called for nothing less than a new world financial order. China's central bank governor proposed replacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency with a global system controlled by the International Monetary Fund.
If, as expected, the IMF this month approves the inclusion of China's renminbi as a reserve currency, it will mark a small step for Mr Zhou's 2009 vision, but a big move for the renminbi.
The prospect of China's currency sterling in backing the IMF's Special Drawing Rights — its unit of account, restricted to member governments — has been described as everything from a symbolic ego trip by Beijing to the dawning of a new era.
In all probability it will be like many Chinese financial reforms: significant in hindsight, but harder to get excited about in its early stages.
Market enthusiasm over early-stage reforms such as the de-pegging of the renminbi 10 years ago has gradually given way to a level of ennui as the changes get smaller and China gets bigger. The result is often disappointment in the numbers as China maintains a staunch antipathy to the sort of sweeping changes, accompanied by headline-grabbing figures, beloved of newly installed western executives and politicians.
Even the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, one-year-old this week, was shrugged aside by many, because the absolute numbers involved are relatively small. However, its real significance lies in the fact that it was the first scheme under which China had let foreign investors in "blind" — that is, without requiring approval of each investor.
SDR inclusion risks being categorised the same way. That would miss the point, since this is not about boosting short-term demand from central banks for renminbi. Rather, it is about embedding the currency in the international system and committing China to financial reform.
If China were to constitute up to 10 percent of the SDR basket, that would result in a need for reserve managers to buy just $28bn of its currency — not a particularly meaningful number compared with the $20bn traded daily in the onshore spot market. High quality global journalism requires investment. Reserve figures are thus another source of headline number disappointment. If China were to make up 3 percent of the $11.5tn of reserves held globally by the end of 2016, as forecast by DBS economist Nathan Chow, the $340bn that implies would vault the renminbi straight into the top league alongside sterling and the yen. Yet the dollar comprises almost two-thirds of reserves and the euro a further 20 percent.
Numbers aside, the bigger ramifications of SDR inclusion come from its effect on financial reform. Xiangrong Yu, economist at CICC, likens it to the impact of China joining the World Trade Organisation in 2002. "Even if the renminbi fails to be added this time around, it will be impossible to reverse these reform measures," he adds.
Changes so far seen include the scrapping in July of the need for central banks and other sovereign-linked players to gain approval to invest in China’s onshore bond markets. After all, reserve managers that want to add renminbi, however slowly they do so, will need assets to buy. And China likes and needs long-term steady investors.
There are also the efforts, albeit with limited success to date, to allow the currency to trade more in line with market movements — a key goal of the mishandled August devaluation. The gap between onshore and offshore renminbi rates has increased recently, suggesting less response by the People's Bank of China to what the market, via the offshore rate, is implying.
This, however, could be a function of the SDR campaign. And after gaining acceptance, pressure for a stronger currency to help win SDR approval should fade, potentially paving the way for a drift lower.
For short-term investors the main outcome of SDR inclusion could be greater uncertainty. For longer term thinkers, it could be worth returning to Deng Xiaoping's famous maxim describing China's method of progress as "crossing the river by feeling the stones".