美元与中国 zt

作者:大西洋人  于 2010-7-18 13:12 发表于 最热闹的华人社交网络--贝壳村

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约瑟夫·奈● 审时度势

  美国官员要求中国重新估值人民币已经有好几年了。他们抱怨说,被低估的人民币代表了不公平的竞争,造成美国就业岗位减少,并导致美国的贸易赤字。那么,美国官员该如何应对呢?

 就在最近G20多伦多峰会举行的前夕,中国宣布了一项让人民币略微升值的方案,但是一些美国国会议员仍然心存疑虑,并威胁对中国产品增加关税。

  美国从中国进口商品,付给中国美元。中国持有美元,积累了2万5000亿美元的外汇储备,其中大部分是美国国债。在某些观察家看来,这代表了全球实力平衡的一种根本转变,因为中国可以通过威胁卖掉持有的美元来迫使美国屈服。

  但是,假如中国真的这么做,对自己也会造成一些伤害。美元下跌不仅会让中国的外汇储备贬值,还会使美国不愿继续进口便宜的中国商品。对中国来说,这意味着失业和不稳定。

  判断经济上的相互依赖是否会产生权力,需要着眼于不对称的平衡,不能仅仅只看其中的一方。以中美的例子来看,相互依赖创造了一种“金融恐怖平衡”(balance of financial terror)。这种情况类似冷战期间的美国和苏联,两国当时都未恫言使用核实力来相互摧毁。

  2010年2月,因为被美国对台军售触怒,一批高级军官要求中国政府出售美国政府债券作为反击。然而,他们的建议并未得到理会。相反的,中国国家外汇管理局局长易纲解释说,“中国对于美国国债的投资是市场行为,我们不想将其政治化。” 否则,双方都会受害。

  不过,这个平衡并不能确保稳定。行动总会带来非预期的后果,尤其是当两国可以预料的,都会想办法改变状况和减少自身的弱点。例如,2008年的金融危机后,美国要求中国让其货币升值。中国中央银行的官员却开始提出,美国需要增加储蓄、减少赤字、并改善美元作为国际货币基金组织发出的特别提款权储备货币的角色。

  但是中国叫得响,却不一定做得实。中国日益增长的金融实力可能让它更有能力抗拒美国的要求。但它作为债权人的角色,却不像一些人所预测的,足以迫使美国改变其政策。

  中国采取了一些次要的措施来减缓其持有的美国国债的增长,但因为国内的政治原因,它却不愿意冒险让人民币成为完全可兑换货币。因此,在未来十年,人民币不大可能挑战美元作为世界最大外汇储备货币(超过60%)的角色。

  但是,随着中国逐渐增加国内消费,并减小依赖出口作为其经济增长引擎,中国领导人可能会开始觉得,中国已不再像目前这样依赖进入美国市场来提供就业机会(这对国内的政治稳定至关重要)。那样的话,保持人民币的弱势地位就能够保护贸易平衡,防止进口商品的大量涌入。

  货币市场的非对称性是经济实力尤其重要的一面,因为它是全球贸易和金融市场的基础。通过对人民币兑换的限制,中国正在避免货币市场对国内经济决策的惩罚。

  例如,比较一下1998年的印尼、韩国和2008年金融危机中的美国。印尼和韩国受到国际银行和国际货币基金组织的惩罚,美国政府却能相对自由地增加开支来应对危机。这个自由是美国债务的美元面值所赐予的。而且,美元非但没有变得疲软,还随着投资者认识到美元作为避风港的潜力而升值了。

  很明显的,一个国家的货币如果在世界外汇储备中占据重大的比例,就能因此而获得国际权力,这要归功于对经济调整的较宽松条款和影响其它国家的能力。法国总统戴高乐便曾经抱怨,“因为美元在各地都是被报价货币,其它国家会因为美元的管理不当而受到影响。这是不能接受的,也不能永远是这样的。”

  然而,情况还是如此。美国的军事和经济实力加强了人们对于美元作为避风港的信心。正如一位加拿大分析师所说,“一个先进的资本市场,和保护这个市场的强大军事力量,再加上其它的安全措施,比如保护产权的传统和按时付款的好名声等因素的共同作用,让美国能够轻易地吸引资金。”

  此次G20峰会的焦点是“重新平衡”金融流动,改变“美国赤字—中国盈余”的旧有模式。这需要消费和投资的调整,美国必须增加储蓄而中国必须增加国内消费,这在政治上并不简单。

  这样的改变不会很快发生。中美都不急着打破靠相互依赖的弱点所形成的对称性,但是它们都会继续设法塑造双方之间市场关系的结构和制度框架。为了全球经济,我们希望任何一方都不会失算。

作者Joseph S. Nye曾任美国国防部助理部长,现为哈佛大学教授。

英文原题:The Dollar and the Dragon

CAMBRIDGE – For several years, American officials have pressed China to revalue its currency. They complain that the undervalued renminbi represents unfair competition, destroying American jobs, and contributing to the United States’ trade deficit. How, then, should US officials respond?

Just before the recent G-20 meeting in Toronto, China announced a formula that would allow modest renminbi appreciation, but some American Congressmen remain unconvinced, and threaten to increase tariffs on Chinese goods.

America absorbs Chinese imports, pays China in dollars, and China holds dollars, amassing $2.5 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves, much of it held in US Treasury securities. To some observers, this represents a fundamental shift in the global balance of power, because China could bring the US to its knees by threatening to sell its dollars.

But, if China were to bring the US to it knees, it might bring itself to its ankles in the process. China would not only reduce the value of its reserves as the dollar’s value fell, but it would also jeopardize America’s continued willingness to import cheap Chinese goods, which would mean job losses and instability in China.

Judging whether economic interdependence produces power requires looking at the balance of asymmetries, not just at one side of the equation. In this case, interdependence has created a “balance of financial terror” analogous to the Cold War, when the US and the Soviet Union never used their potential to destroy each other in a nuclear exchange.

In February 2010, angered over American arms sales to Taiwan, a group of senior military officers called for the Chinese government to sell off US government bonds in retaliation. Their proposal went unheeded. Instead, Yi Gang, China’s director of state administration of foreign exchange, explained that “Chinese investments in US Treasuries are market investment behavior, and we don’t wish to politicize them.” Otherwise, the pain would be mutual.

Nevertheless, this balance does not guarantee stability. There is always the danger of actions with unintended consequences, especially as both countries can be expected to maneuver to change the framework and reduce their vulnerabilities. For example, after the 2008 financial crisis, while the US pressed China to let its currency appreciate, officials at China’s central bank began arguing that America needed to increase its savings, reduce its deficits, and move toward supplementing the dollar’s role as a reserve currency with IMF-issued special drawing rights.

But China’s bark was louder than its bite. China’s increased financial power may have increased its ability to resist American entreaties, but despite dire predictions, its creditor role has not been sufficient to compel the US to change its policies.

While China has taken minor measures to slow the increase in its dollar-denominated holdings, it has been unwilling to risk a fully convertible currency for domestic political reasons. Thus, the renminbi is unlikely to challenge the dollar’s role as the largest component of world reserves (more than 60%) in the next decade.

Yet, as China gradually increases domestic consumption rather than relying on exports as its engine of economic growth, its leaders may begin to feel less dependent than they now are on access to the US market as a source of job creation, which is crucial for internal political stability. In that case, maintaining a weak renminbi would protect the trade balance from a flood of imports.

Asymmetries in currency markets are a particularly important aspect of economic power, since they underlie global trade and financial markets. By limiting the convertibility of its currency, China is avoiding currency markets’ ability to discipline domestic economic decisions.

Compare, for example, the discipline that international banks and the IMF were able to impose on Indonesia and South Korea in 1998, with the relative freedom of the US – bestowed by denomination of American debt in dollars – to increase government spending in response to the 2008 financial crisis. Indeed, rather than weakening, the dollar has appreciated as investors regard the underlying strength of the US as a safe haven.

Obviously, a country whose currency represents a significant proportion of world reserves can gain international power from that position, thanks to easier terms for economic adjustment and the ability to influence other countries. As French President Charles de Gaulle once complained, “since the dollar is the reference currency everywhere, it can cause others to suffer the effects of its poor management. This is not acceptable. This cannot last.”

But it did. America’s military and economic strength reinforces confidence in the dollar as a safe haven. As a Canadian analyst put it, “the combined effect of an advanced capital market and a strong military machine to defend that market, and other safety measures, such as a strong tradition of property rights protection and a reputation for honoring dues, has made it possible to attract capital with great ease.”

The G-20 is focusing on the need to “re-balance” financial flows, altering the old pattern of US deficits matching Chinese surpluses. This would require politically difficult shifts in consumption and investment, with America increasing its savings and China increasing domestic consumption.

Such changes do not occur quickly. Neither side is in a hurry to break the symmetry of interdependent vulnerability, but both continue to jockey to shape the structure and institutional framework of their market relationship. For the sake of the global economy, let us hope that neither side miscalculates.


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