The American President would like Chinaâ€™s cooperation on the Iranian
and North Korean nuclear programs, a more flexible currency policy for the
yuan, open trade and continued Chinese purchase of American debt. He is likely
to obtain only the last, the price for which will be all the others.
wants unquestioned sovereignty over Tibet,
an uncritical acceptance of its internal political and economic policies and reassurance
that the United States
will honor its debts, rein in deficit spending and prevent a dollar collapse.
The Beijing rulers received
assurance on Tibet
when Obama refused to see the exiled Tibetan Dali Lama. This administration has
not, as in previous terms, harangued China to open its political and
economic system. There has been little or no criticism of China from the American political
establishment prior to this trip, Treasury Secretary Geithnerâ€™s â€˜manipulated
yuanâ€™ comment before the Senate Finance Committee notwithstanding.
The trade-off will come between the competitive economic
agendas of China and the United States.The terms of this agreement have already been
set; the China
trip simply makes the new status quo plain for all to see.
President Obama will reassure President Hu that Washington takes
its debt obligations seriously, that it is about to become serious about
controlling Federal spending and that it holds to a strong dollar policy.President Hu will promise not to withdraw
Chinese support from the Treasury market. The Chinese will pretend to believe
the Americans and the Americans will not press them on any other topic.
The price for Chinaâ€™s
continued support of the US
debt market and by extension of the administrationâ€™s domestic agenda is
American acquiescence in all international topics of importance to China.For the Chinese it is an excellent trade, a
chance to neuter its greatest international adversary for the price of an
investment it would probably have to make anyway.The basic fact of the trade is that China feels it has choices and the United States fears
it does not. As long as a Chinese
withdrawal from the US debt
markets is more frightening to Washington than
to BeijingChina will have the upper hand in
The Chinese currency policy does not just affect its trade
with the United States.
Because the yuan has been essentially fixed against the dollar since last
summer it has depreciated against all other currencies as the dollar has
fallen.Terms of trade have worsened for
Europe, South Korean, Japan,
Taiwan and all of Chinaâ€™s trading
partners.Asian central banks have had
to spend billions of reserves defending the dollar against their own currencies
lest the appreciation become detrimental to their economies. Though the
recession has been less severe in Asia it has
not skipped over the region.World trade
has had a larger percentage drop than the fall in GDP of any individual
national economy; the economies that depend most heavily on exports have
suffered the most.It does not help that
the currency markets have long participated in the positive speculative view of
Asian currencies against the dollar.
as the chief and most important creditor of the United States gives it an influence
in the world economy much greater than its relatively fragile political and
economic strength warrants.Only the United States has
the economic, political and military weight to challenge the Beijing
Governmentâ€™s economic and trade policies.But US
opposition is hamstrung by its need to petition the Chinese for more and more money.One cannot ask oneâ€™s banker for bigger and
bigger loans and then complain about the interest rate.
understanding of the terms of trade that are best for the Chinese economy is
encapsulated by its yuan policy. In the long run a currency program that
beggars its neighbors does not do China, its trading partners or the
world economy any good.After all
someone, someplace has to buy Chinese products. Stable economic development for
as for all others, depends on a domestic economy that absorbs a large portion
of the national production.But, at
least for the time being Chinaâ€™s rulers have decided that they can obtain a
better deal in the global market than the combined opposition of her trading
partners led by the United States would have formerly permitted.
President Obamaâ€™s visit to Beijing is an acknowledgement of the new
status quo in the world economy.China will set the terms of her trade for the
world until the United
States regains control of its own budget.
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