Something different: Impact of Chinese RMB revaluation

Discussion in 'Economics' started by scriabinop23, Jan 23, 2010.


    Here discuss. This idea has been brewing with me for a while, finally compelled to write about it:

    With the People's Bank of China starting to pull back liquidity, and talk of even higher RMB interest rates on the horizon, we may be at a turning point in world trade where a latent and underestimated potential source of global aggregate demand is activated.

    Simply summarized, the past policy of the Chinese government has been to subsidize its exporters by devaluing its own currency. It does this by buying US dollars on foreign exchange with newly printed RMB to keep the currency rate generally pegged. Doing this aggressively over the past decade, it has built enormous world capacity and stimulated world demand for the goods it produces.

    By China saying it wants to decrease the rate of money supply increase (by restricting loans and raising interest rates), it is communicating to the world an end of this RMB devaluation policy, necessary to maintain their US dollar foreign exchange peg. The Chinese central bank can't have lower RMB money supply and a maintained US dollar peg, unless of course they make an agreement with the Fed to also reduce its money supply simultaneously. In this political and economic environment, this is an impossibility.

    The People's Bank of China has two policy choices. The first is they can keep up the status quo, printing RMB to buy US treasuries in order to continue to subsidize exporters, with the unwanted side effect of continued local price inflation and asset bubbles (real estate in particular). The alternative is that they raise interest rates and impose higher reserve requirements, reducing the rate of money growth. They have already embarked on this path, so there should be very little to guess (especially in the longer run) on where the RMB goes from here.

    A stronger RMB means the US and Euro zone (China's largest trade partners) import less from China, while China imports more from the US and Euro zone. Such a change signifies a reversal of what many view a predatorial trade policy on the part of the Chinese. It also means the $2.4 trillion US dollars of accumulated reserves will have less buying power going forward.

    In such a change, China's trade partners will have to deal with higher import prices, and will thus have lower GDP as a response. In the long run, their economies restructure and their exports increase (GDP rises). This reflects the J-curve model in international trade economics.

    With China already the number one consumer of autos in the world, the Chinese consumer with the benefit of a strong currency would spell a voracious appetite for potential consumption. Certainly, with Chinese demand for transports growing at an exponential rate and global crude oil demand once again increasing, Chinese policymakers now have all the incentive in the world to let the RMB strengthen, keeping input and fuel costs under control, as global supplies of key commodities dwindle.

    In the long run, a strong RMB means strong Chinese consumer demand, less price inflation in China, and increased exports (and thus economic growth) from the OECD. It also signifies a trend reversion of trade account deficits to possibly surplus, especially within the US. In a most extreme case where the Chinese government decided to sell off its stash of US dollar assets and then spend those dollars, a significant amount of latent aggregate demand is represented here. Contrary to Robert Samuelson's suggestion in Newsweek that "The massive disgorging of dollars could trigger another global economic collapse," it could in fact trigger quite the opposite, in the form of spending stimulus the US has never seen before. $2.4 Trillion US dollars represent an enormous amount of real economic activity, and any near term economic risk a short term rise in interest rates would more than be offset by the increase in US GDP, employment rates, and correlating rising government tax revenues.

    Inevitably, there are many undealt with moving parts here, resulting in more questions. Post-RMB revaluation, will the new strong Chinese consumer offset the losses the former Chinese exporter suffers? Will the surge in Chinese consumer demand be a one-off event, as their exporters languish? Will the US and Eurozone, with now weaker currencies, be able to be competitive exporters with the side effect of increased commodity costs? How long will it take for the US economy to restructure back into increased manufacturing and other industries clearly destroyed by Chinese predatorial trade subsidies? With a future US having increased real GDP activity and better government fiscal status resulting from corresponding increased tax revenues, a stronger US dollar may be a long run effect, contrary to any near term movement against the RMB.

    The only near term certainty is that such a significant policy change will create volatility and result in enormous real economic change. An overshoot weakening of the US dollar would be likely. As well, gold may do well and US treasuries may suffer (as a significant buyer disappears from the market). Furthermore, since significant structural changes would need to occur in the US economy to adjust to a strong RMB, it may take a long time for exporters to adjust. This points to a lag in increased tax revenues. Short term, with a dollar devaluation, notional value of imports would increase, putting negative pressure on US GDP and making the US fiscal condition look all the more dire.

    Inevitably, policymakers might invoke accelerated money printing and fiscal stimulus to ease the pain. Uncertainty may drive up inflation expectations as well, increasing the likelyhood of higher long run interest rates. Such an inflationary move in the US may be just what the doctor ordered, as nominal wages rise and accumulated debts currently stifling lending (reflecting bank insolvency) would be rendered non-issue.
  2. If the value of RMB increases in USD terms that means the price of commodity in RMB terms will decrease thus leading for more consumption of oil, copper, gold etc

    Commodity prices will shoot up because Chinese people can afford more oil and copper for the same amount of RMB they have in their hand.