5. China's real goal may be prestige—and some longer-term stability.
China has been making an all-out push to make the yuan the fifth currency recognized by the International Monetary Fund as an international reserve currency, a designation that could be formalized as soon as next month.
To win so-called Special Drawing Rights status, China has to demonstrate that its currency is "freely usable," a conclusion the IMF has refused to draw as recently as 2010. The push for special drawing rights is pressing China to reduce capital controls in general and may, in particular, be driving the move toward a more market-based way of valuing the yuan, according to a Bloomberg analysis in March.
The results could include convincing more central banks across the world to hold reserves in yuan, stabilizing its value, or to be able to buy commodities and other goods priced in yuan, according to several Asia-based experts cited in Bloomberg's piece. Special drawing rights might also cut borrowing costs for Chinese exporters.
Looked at that way, China's move may be trading some short-term pain for the promise of longer-term gain.
—By Tim Mullaney, special to CNBC.com