Better Listen What China Has to Say

Friday, June 26, 2009

Shocked by the fact that lamestream media and Twitter are all about Michael Jackson's death from what appears to be a drug overdose, I enjoy being the spoiler for a world that seemingly does not know how to set its priorities anymore. While 33 of the 42 commercial media I regularly read headline with Jacko, it is Chinese media that published the truly important news of the day.
Here's the executive version of Chinese economic news picked from the English language People's Daily Online.
  1. China takes public ownership as the main body and the other (issue) is to adhere to the common growth of economy belonging to diverse forms of ownership.
  2. The People's Bank of China (PBoC) will stick to an appropriately easy monetary policy but will ensure reasonable growth in money and credit, the central bank said yesterday.
  3. New credit in the first half of 2009 will definitely surpass 6 trillion yuan, and some experts even predict the figure to be up to 6.5 trillion yuan. This means that total credit in the first half of this year will be more than the total amount invested in any year since China was founded.
  4. China should buy more gold because the dollar is poised for a fall and the metal is needed to support the greater international role envisaged for the yuan, a senior researcher with the ruling Communist Party said.
You can now go back to watch CNN's US propaganda broadcast and remain in the "don't worry, be happy" camp which still has a solid majority in the Western world. Or would you prefer to gather a little more intel on the next #1 power in the world? Then read on.
Bullet point #1 appears to point to a struggle of ideologies in the Chinese communist party. Chinese entrepreneurs certainly favor a more liberal business climate but one must not forget that there is still a gap as wide as the Amazon river between the Ferrari driving riches in towns and a rural hinterland where oxcarts and bicycles remain to be seen as signs of prosperity. In order to prevent social upheaval China needs to bridge this gap or it risks falling apart. The anonymous commenter in the People's Daily reminds the world that China still favors a hands-on approach:
Taking public ownership as the mainstay is a fundamental principle of socialism. In a socialist country like China, where people have become masters of their own destiny, it is imperative to keep public ownership of means of production as a basis of the socialist economic system. So, adherence to public ownership as the main body is of vital importance in giving play to the superiority of the nation's socialist system, increasing the nation's economic strength and promoting social harmony in the country.
Pointing out, that 26 of the 500 largest companies in the world as of 2008 are state-controlled Chinese corporations, the most populous nation on earth insists that it is not so much about ownership-ideology but about keeping up a harmonious people.
In a nutshell, it is imperative and essential to consolidate and develop the public ownership economy, to encourage, support and guide the growth of the non-public sector economy, and to maintain the right to equal access of property resources, so that a brand-new situation will emerge, in which all economic sectors will "vie with each other" on an equal footing so as to spur their economic activity for mutual advancement.
Confronted with a global economic downturn China's central bank made it clear this week that it will emphasize an easy monetary policy to keep its economy humming despite declining exports. In a stark contrast to the indebted western world China sits on roughly $2 trillion in assets, enabling it to conduct stimulus policies no country in the Western hemisphere could afford. Read their opinion on bullet point #2 in their own words as it also signals a concern about the environment:
In a summary of the conclusions drawn at its second-quarter monetary policy committee meeting, the central bank said yesterday that it would ensure reasonable growth in money and credit but would strictly control lending to polluting, energy-intensive industries...
"The top priority at the moment is to stop the explosive growth in lending at the end of the month and quarter," China Banking Regulatory Commission said in a recent notice to lenders, pointing to the phenomena of banks racing to offer loans before June to meet their half-year lending targets.
The Eastern dragon so far performs much better than any recession-stricken nation in the West, where money supply has rocketed to potentially fatal (hyper inflationary) levels. Covering bullet point #3 in their own words, China plays its monetary muscle.
People's Bank of China Monetary Policy Committee recently held a regular meeting on the second quarter of 2009. The conference studies the orientation of monetary policy and measures for the coming future, concluding that we need to implement moderately easy monetary policy and maintain the continuity and stability of policies to guide a reasonable growth in monetary credit.
It is learned that in the first five months, RMB loans increased by 5.84 trillion yuan. June figures have not yet been released, but according to past experience, new credit in the first half of 2009 will definitely surpass 6 trillion yuan, and some experts even predict the figure to be up to 6.5 trillion yuan. This means that total credit in the first half of this year will be more than the total amount invested in any year since China was founded.
2 Ways Through a Recession: China Can Afford It Because of Savings
Show me a Western country that could shell out a trillion Euros/dollars from its full pockets! There is no such thing. All stimulus packages Western politicians promise are only backed by the hope of future tax payments. China can dive through a recession on its savings whereas the so called first world has nothing else to show than debts that are enough of a burden for the two next generations.
Wouldn't we all love to have the same economic discussion as the Chinese where economists argue whether the economy has bottomed out at a growth rate of 6.1% in Q1 2008 or whether one should be skeptical about a possible GDP growth rate of 9%?
Diving into recent history (i.e. this blog's archive) China can actually see the global downturn as a benefit that helps keeping the economy from overheating. BTW, why are we actually concerned with "overheating" economies? Don't we all want to become rich by tomorrow? But I won't digress, this is an entirely different discussion best to be had over a bottle of good plum wine.
Let's better proceed to bullet point #4: China's growing role in forex markets.
Reuters staffers Zhou Xin and Alan Wheatley direct my attention to the fact that China sees a much bigger role of gold in global currency policy after surprising the world with the fact that it had domestically purchased gold and now sits on a hoard of 1,054 tonnes after publishing a figure of 660 tonnes since 2003.
Buy Gold Before China Buys It All
The communist party's chief economist told Reuters the following strategic goals (found on GATA's website):
China should buy more gold because the dollar is poised for a fall and the metal is needed to support the greater international role envisaged for the yuan, a senior researcher with the ruling Communist Party said on Thursday.
Li Lianzhong, who heads the economic department of the party's policy research office, said China should use more of its $1.95 trillion in foreign exchange reserves to buy energy and natural resource assets.
Speaking at a foreign exchange and gold forum, Li also said that buying land in the United States was a better option for China than buying U.S. Treasury securities.
"Should we buy gold or U.S. Treasuries?" Li asked. "The U.S. is printing dollars on a massive scale, and in view of that trend, according to the laws of economics, there is no doubt that the dollar will fall. So gold should be a better choice."
Following the nuances of Chinese official-speak it is clear that China sees itself superior in monetary policy but is left with a problem it shares with all creditors in the world: Its forex reserve stash consists mainly of unbacked Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs), a fiat currency backed by nothing else than the belief it will buy you the same amount of goods and services in the future as it did in the past.
China takes appropriate steps at its own rhythm to secure a bigger role for the Yuan in the future. Looking at the Yuan's slow revaluation so far China has made good on its promises to the bankrupt USA.
The Reuters story sums it up correctly:
Li cited the high share of gold in the foreign exchange reserves of the United States, Italy, Germany, and France to argue that China's gold holdings, which account for about 1.6 percent of its reserves, are too small.
China does not disclose the composition of its currency reserves, but bankers assume around 70 percent is held in dollar assets.
China is the largest single holder of U.S. Treasuries, with $763.5 billion at the end of April, according to U.S. Treasury data.
Analysts say this data set understates the true number as it does not capture paper bought through dealers in London or elsewhere.
Li said a second reason for buying more gold would be in anticipation of the yuan one day becoming a reserve currency.
The yuan is not convertible on the capital account, meaning it cannot be freely traded for other currencies for financial transactions that are not related to trade. This rules out the yuan's use as an international reserve currency, for central banks would not be able to convert it quickly if necessary.
But in a very preliminary step toward that goal, China is paving the way for greater use of the yuan beyond its borders.
The People's Bank of China has arranged currency swap deals with six countries since December totalling 650 billion yuan ($95 billion) so that trade and investment with China can be conducted in yuan, not dollars.
And China will soon allow selected firms in the southern province of Guangdong that trade with Hong Kong to settle their transactions in yuan, or renminbi.
"If the yuan should go international or become a reserve currency, China needs more gold to back that," Li said.
One must not forget that China's political state supports long term strategies for which Western leaders who want to get reelected every 4 years have no leeway.
Reuters fills in here very well too:
When the yuan does become an international currency, which Li acknowledged was a long way off, he said the composition of the SDR should be reformed to include the Chinese currency.
Ideally, in the long term, the SDR would be made up of the dollar, euro, sterling, yen, and yuan, each with a weighting of 20 percent, Li said.
The SDR is currently made up of the dollar (with a weighting of 44 percent), the euro (34 percent), the yen (11 percent), and sterling (11 percent)
The four currencies in the SDR, which must be convertible, are those issued by fund members with the largest share of global trade. The weights assigned by the IMF are based on the value of exports and the amount of reserves denominated in those currencies.
The composition of the basket is reviewed every five years. the next review is due in 2010.
Rest assured that the dragon will blow some hot air down the Western world's spine in the run-up to this review.


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