Walloping Wake-up Call
Niall Ferguson of Harvard and Moritz Schularick of Berlin have a piece in today’s New York Times: “The Great Wallop.” Here’s the beginning:
A few years ago we came up with the term “Chimerica” to describe the combination of the Chinese and American economies, which together had become the key driver of the global economy. With a combined 13 percent of the world’s land surface and around a quarter of its population, Chimerica nevertheless accounted for a third of global economic output and two-fifths of worldwide growth from 1998 to 2007.
And here’s the conclusion:
Right now, Chimerica clearly serves China better than America. Call it the 10:10 deal: the Chinese get 10 percent growth; America gets 10 percent unemployment. The deal is even worse for the rest of the world — and that includes some of America’s biggest export markets and most loyal allies. The question is: What can the United States offer to make the Chinese abandon the dollar peg that has served them so well?
The authorities in Beijing must be made to see that any book losses on its reserve assets resulting from changes in the exchange rate will be a modest price to pay for the advantages they reaped from the Chimerica model: the transformation from third-world poverty to superpower status in less than 15 years. In any case, these losses would be more than compensated for by the increase in the dollar value of China’s huge stock of renminbi assets.
It is also in China’s interest to kick its currency-intervention habit. A heavily undervalued renminbi is the key financial distortion in the world economy today. If it persists for much longer, China risks losing the very foundation of its economic success: an open global trading regime.
And this is exactly what President Obama can offer in return for a substantial currency revaluation of, say, 20 percent to 30 percent over the next 12 months: a clear commitment to globalization and free trade, and an end to the nascent Chinese-American tariff war.
For as long as the People’s Republic has existed, the United States has been the principal upholder of a world economic order based on the free movement of goods and, more recently, capital. It has also picked up the tab for policing the oil-rich but unstable Middle East. No country has benefited more from these arrangements than China, and it should now pay for them through a stronger Chinese currency. Chimerica was always a chimera — an economic monster. Revaluing the renminbi will give this monster the peaceful death it deserves.
And a lot of sobering stuff in-between.