This is the opinion of Paul Craig Roberts, who previous served as Assistant Secretary of Treasury during the Reagan administration, and is often quoted as the “father of Reaganomics”. (You can read the Wikipedia entry about him here.)
Recently there has been discussion about China’s threat to use the “nuclear option”, or and basically destroying the value of the US dollar as a global reserve currency by dumping more dollars on the markets than they can absorb in a short time, forcing the dollar into a free-fall.
The prevailing wisdom among US economists is that China would not make such a move, as the damage to China’s own economy would be too great. Roberts rebuts this claim saying that
American economists make a mistake in their reasoning when they assume that China needs large reserves of foreign exchange. China does not need foreign exchange reserves for the usual reasons of supporting its currency’s value and paying its trade bills. China does not allow its currency to be traded in currency markets. Indeed, there is not enough yuan available to trade. Speculators, betting on the eventual rise of the yuan’s value, are trying to capture future gains by trading ‘virtual yuan.’ The other reason is that China does not have foreign trade deficits, and does not need reserves in other currencies with which to pay its bills. Indeed, if China had creditors, the creditors would be pleased to be paid in yuan as the currency is thought to be undervalued.
In addition, he refutes the claim that China would lose US markets with such a move.
The notion that China cannot exercise its power without losing its US markets is wrong. American consumers are as dependent on imports of manufactured goods from China as they are on imported oil. In addition, the profits of US brand name companies are dependent on the sale to Americans of the products that they make in China. The US cannot, in retaliation, block the import of goods and services from China without delivering a knock-out punch to US companies and US consumers. China has many markets and can afford to lose the US market easier than the US can afford to lose the American brand names on Wal-Mart’s shelves that are made in China. Indeed, the US is even dependent on China for advanced technology products. If truth be known, so much US production has been moved to China that many items on which consumers depend are no longer produced in America.
Roberts then builds a case for China’s dumping dollars as a reaction against US pressure for revaluing the yuan, refuting claims that this is an impossible scenario.
Consider that if China were to increase the value of the yuan by 30 percent, the value of China’s dollar holdings would decline by 30 percent. It would have the same effect on China’s pocketbook as dumping dollars and Treasuries in the markets.
Consider also, that as revaluation causes the yuan to move up in relation to the dollar (the reserve currency), it also causes the yuan to move up against every other traded currency. Thus, the Chinese cannot revalue as Paulson has ordered without making Chinese goods more expensive not merely to Americans but everywhere.
Compare this result with China dumping dollars. With the yuan pegged to the dollar, China can dump dollars without altering the exchange rate between the yuan and the dollar. As the dollar falls, the yuan falls with it. Goods and services produced in China do not become more expensive to Americans, and they become cheaper elsewhere. By dumping dollars, China expands its entry into other markets and accumulates more foreign currencies from trade surpluses.
Basically, Roberts makes a strong case for the argument that the US no longer has leverage over China and global financial markets the way it used to. You can read his whole article here.
Have we reached a tipping point in American power and global influence?