Posted by: mulrickillion | October 10, 2011

China’s Currency Policy Explained


Chinese one yuan coins are placed on 100 yuan banknotes.

By Arthur R. Kroeber, Nonresident Fellow, Foreign Policy, Brookings-Tsinghua Center

The Brookings Institution, September 07, 2011 —

Arthur Kroeber expands upon a recent paper, answering questions about China’s monetary policy on the valuation of the renminbi and the political issues this raises.

1. The Chinese currency, or renminbi (RMB) has been a contentious issue for the past several years. What is the root of the conflict for the United States and other countries?

The root of the conflict for the United States—and other countries—is complaints that China keeps the value of the RMB artificially low, boosting its exports and trade surplus at the expense of trading partners. Although the U.S. Treasury has repeatedly stopped short of labeling China a “currency manipulator” in its twice-yearly reports to Congress, it has consistently pressured China to allow the RMB to appreciate at a faster pace, and to let the currency fluctuate more freely in line with market forces. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and many economists have also argued for faster appreciation and a more flexible exchange rate policy. Partly in response to these pressures, but more because of domestic considerations, China has allowed the RMB to rise by about 25% against the U.S. dollar since mid-2005. Yet the pace of appreciation remains agonizingly slow for the U.S. and other countries in Europe and Latin America whose manufacturing sectors face increasing competition from low-priced Chinese goods.

2. What impact does exchange rate control have on the economy?

According to foreign observers, consistent intervention by China to keep its exchange rate substantially below the level the market would set is a price distortion that prevents international markets from functioning as well as they could. This price distortion also affects China’s own economy, by encouraging large-scale investment in export manufacturing, and discouraging investment in the domestic consumer market. Thus, it is in the interest both of China itself and the international economy as a whole for China to allow its exchange rate to rise more rapidly. However, Chinese policy makers do not agree with this view, and believe the managed exchange rate is broadly beneficial for economic development.

3. What is the Chinese view of their policies toward exchange rate control?

Chinese officials see the exchange rate—and prices and market mechanisms in general—as tools in a broader development strategy. The goal of this development strategy is not to create a market economy but to make China a rich and powerful modern country. Market mechanisms are simply means, not ends in themselves. Chinese leaders observe that all countries that have raised themselves from poverty to wealth in the industrial era, without exception, have done so through export-led growth. Thus, they manage the exchange rate to broadly favor exports, just as they manage other markets and prices in the domestic economy in order to meet development objectives such as the creation of basic industries and infrastructure. . . .

China’s Currency Policy Explained – Up Front Blog – Brookings Institution


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