China is putting the yuan front and center in its fight back against the U.S.'s unique influence over global money.

President Xi Jinping's government has been busy striking deals over the past year to expand the ways in which the currency is used, with new agreements linked to the yuan stretching from Russia and Saudi Arabia to Brazil and even France.

While the U.S. remains the world’s clear financial hegemon, these moves are helping China to carve out a bigger place for itself in the international financial system. They come at a time when geopolitical strains are growing and global commerce is becoming an ever-more-active battleground.