How to convert Renminbi to USD, Canada dollar or other currency is a FAQ. The simple answer is, it is not easy.
Renminbi is not a free trading currency. That means, you cannot convert between Renminbi and free trading currency like USD freely.
Exchanging for RMB
Now, it is pretty easy to convert free-trading currency like USD into RMB. Just to go to a bank branch and ask for the exchange. Not all bank branches provide this service. At least those in Pudong Airport and Hong Qiao Airport can help you on the conversion. After you get Renminbi, be sure to keep the receipt with you. You will need the receipt to exchange RMB back to USD, or other currency.
Exchanging for USD, CAN, YEN…
If you want to exchange Renminbi for other currency, limitation applies. If you just exchanged it from other currency before, provide the receipt and they can exchange RMB for other currency up to the amount you exchanged that time.
If you just want to exchange, I am not sure about the policy for foreigners. For local resident, there are many regulations. I remember you have to provide a reason for exchange. The most common reason is to visiting other countries. With the passport, valid visa and sometimes flight ticket, you can exchange USD from Renminbi up to 2000 USD. They will stamp on the passport visa page that states: “Foreign currency supplied.” so you cannot use the 2000 USD allowrence twice for the same travel.
For foreign investment to China, there are also some limitation to move the money back since the exchange of currency will be an issue. Other countries does not accept Renminbi yet.
Disclaimer: The information provided may be inaccurate because I am not an expert in this field.
Update April 10, 2008
Look at how RMB is doing in the last few years. When I first know foreign exchange, my memory of USD to RMB is 1 to 8. Today, the exchange rate is as low as 6.9924. The exchange rate changed so quickly in the last few years. Imagine what it means to the industry related to outsourcing in China.