Benn Steil

Geo-Graphics

A graphical take on geoeconomic issues, with links to the news and expert commentary.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "China"

Is a “Decisive Role” for Market Forces in China Compatible with a 7 Percent Growth Target?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
china target vs us forecast

The Chinese government is early next year expected to announce a 7% growth target for 2014, a rate China has managed to exceed every year since 1990.  Chinese growth has also exceeded the government target at least as far back as 2001 (the first year for which we have found such targets); the target has therefore in essence been a floor.  In contrast, as today’s Geo-Graphic shows, the White House has overestimated U.S. growth 70% of the time since 2001. Read more »

The New Geo-Graphics iPad Mini Index Should Calm Talk of Currency Wars

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker

The “law of one price” holds that identical goods should trade for the same price in an efficient market.  To what extent does it hold internationally?

The Economist magazine’s famous Big Mac Index uses the price of McDonalds’ burgers around the world, expressed in a common currency (U.S. dollars), to estimate the extent to which various currencies are over- or under-valued.  The Big Mac is a global product, identical across borders, which makes it an interesting one for this purpose.  Yet it travels badly – cross-border flows of burgers won’t align their prices internationally. Read more »

Can China’s Bond Market Support a Global RMB?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
RMB

On April 24, the Australian central bank announced that it would raise the proportion of its reserves devoted to Chinese financial assets from 0% to 5%, likely among the highest such allocations among world central banks.  Will other major central banks follow suit? Read more »

Dr. Strangelove or: How China Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dollar

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
currency wars

China has since 1994 operated some form of currency peg, harder or softer, between its yuan and the U.S. dollar. While China’s state-run Xinhua news agency has in recent years railed against U.S. management of the dollar, and has called for “a new, stable, and secured global reserve currency,” this week’s Geo-Graphic illustrates why China has little incentive to press for such a thing. Read more »

A GDP-Based IMF Would Boost China’s Voice . . . and America’s

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
reallocation

Since its creation after the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, membership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has grown from 29 countries to 188.  Representation, in terms of votes and quotas, has also become less connected with the relative weights of each country in the global economy.  As today’s Geo-Graphic shows, China would be by far the biggest beneficiary of an IMF voting reallocation based purely on gross domestic product, gaining eight percentage points.  What is much less well known, however, is that the United States would be the second biggest beneficiary, well above third-place Japan and fourth-place Brazil.  As the United States already has enough votes to wield unique veto power, this would have little practical effect on its already enormous influence.  But it does explain why the United States has been consistently more aligned with the so-called BRIC developing nations on IMF reform than with its fellow rich nations in Europe. Read more »

Labor Data Show That China Is a Bubble Waiting to Burst

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
labor composition china

China “may have” overinvested to the tune of 12-20% of gross domestic product (GDP) between 2007 and 2011 – this is the diplomatically worded conclusion of a working paper released last week by the IMF.  This week’s Geo-Graphic backs it up.

As our figure above shows, the share of the Chinese labor force working in manufacturing and construction, at 38%, is roughly twice the global average – towering well above manufacturing powerhouses like Germany (25%) and South Korea (23%).  Manufacturing’s share of the Chinese work force, at 29%, is also 6 percentage points higher than the level at which other fast growing economies have typically begun slowing.  Once that share exceeds 23%, according to analysis by Barry Eichengreen, it “becomes necessary to shift workers into services, where productivity growth is slower.” Construction’s share of the Chinese labor force, at 9%, is also 2 percentage points higher than in the United States at the peak of the housing bubble in September 2006.  Labor data therefore suggest that China is headed for an extended slowdown in GDP growth. Read more »

Even Slowing China Is Fueling Global Growth

by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies
2012.1.30.ChinaGrowthPerPt

China’s economy slowed from a growth rate of 10.3% in 2010 to 9.5% in 2011 (and a 2000s peak of 14.2% in 2007), prompting fears that China could trigger a global slowdown.  Yet at 10% of world output, 2.5 times what it was in 2001, the Chinese economy is now so large that it will continue to make a significantly rising contribution to global growth even if its own growth rate continues to fall off moderately.

Read more »

The BRIC Twist Didn’t Work

by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies

China, Russia, and Brazil Bond Buying, 2009-11

On September 21st the Fed announced that it would be selling $400 billion in short-term Treasurys and buying $400 billion in longer-term Treasurys to replace them – a maneuver titled “Operation Twist.” Atlanta Fed president Dennis Lockhart explained what it would mean for the economy: “It means lower interest rates – a lower cost of borrowing – across a whole spectrum of loan maturities.” Is he right? Well, China, Russia, and Brazil have conducted their own version of Operation Twist over the past several years, replacing roughly $330 billion in short-term Treasurys with long-term ones. The 10-year Treasury rate went sideways over that period, as shown in the figure above. Whereas the BRIC* Twist may have put some modest downward pressure on longer-term rates, other factors overwhelmed it. Don’t expect much from the Fed’s similar-sized version.

Read more »

China’s “Helping Hand” Won’t Help Germany

by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently hinted teasingly that China might buy more risky-country European debt; a “helping hand,” he called it.  Yet even if China follows through, it is unlikely to increase its intended purchases of European debt but rather just change the composition.  China’s euro purchases have increased dramatically over the past two years (we estimate these to be ¾ of reserves purchased in excess of the change in China’s U.S. asset holdings).  Most of this can be presumed to have been invested in German bunds, Europe’s closest thing to U.S. Treasurys.  Chinese euro purchases over the coming twelve months equivalent to those of the previous twelve months could cover the entire 2012 net financing needs of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain (PIIGS), as the figure above shows.  Every euro China invests in new PIIGS debt, however, can be expected to come at the expense of bunds.  Such a diversion would push up German interest rates—precisely what Germany wants to avoid by resisting eurobond issuance—without giving Germany any greater say over eurozone fiscal policies.  Chancellor Merkel therefore gains little, if anything, in making political concessions to secure Wen’s “helping hand.”

Read more »

China’s Imbalances Are Bigger than Reckoned

by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies

“How China’s external current account surplus will evolve in the coming years is one of the key questions on the economic outlook for China and the global economy both,” said a World Bank official in Beijing recently. The IMF presented its own answer to that question in a July 2010 report on the Chinese economy, forecasting a gentle, steady rise in China’s current account surplus, relative to its GDP, as shown in the top figure above. The forecast comfortingly shows the surplus staying well below its 2007 peak. Yet since China’s economy is growing much faster than the world economy, the IMF understates the upward trajectory of China’s growing imbalances with the rest of the world. This we show in the bottom figure, which projects China’s surplus relative to world GDP using the IMF’s own assumptions. By this measure, China’s surplus will surpass its 2008 peak within two years. If China continues to recycle dollars abroad at this pace, the global economy will become considerably more vulnerable to shocks from capital flow reversals.

Read more »