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The dangerous case of the Chinese stumper


The dollar and euro need to be devalued by 25%-50% which means yuan must appreciate another 20%-35% from it record high (update on 26th August, 2011)

Let us call this the Chinese Stumper! (Hambone by Mike Flanagan; Cartoon courtesy - Business Standard; from issue dated 19th May 2010; Copyright - Graphic Syndication, England).

Let us call this the Chinese Stumper! (Hambone by Mike Flanagan; Cartoon courtesy - Business Standard; from issue dated 19th May 2010; Copyright - Graphic Syndication, England).

Siamese’ triplets

The Great Recession is like a case of conjoined triplets.

One is the USA – who has used their Bretton Woods licence to print dollars and flood the world market with excess liquidity. The US has also used their ‘dollar power’ to gain loyalty by favouring their allies, satellites and client states with low exchange rates that boost exports. Europe, Japan, Asian Tigers, (and now) China have all been favored with a ‘beneficial’ exchange rate in the past. At an ‘appropriate’ time, this ‘benefit’ was taken away. The US gained by ‘recruiting’ low-cost labour of these economies.

The US 'out-thunk' the Euro-zone on the Euro-currency strategy!

The US 'out-thunk' the Euro-zone on the Euro-currency strategy!

US imports, were underwritten by an increasing volume of IOUs, denominated in depreciating dollars. By paying for imports with IOU notes, the US could subsidize their high-cost exports, to these ‘semi-captive’ markets.

With dollar IOUs and dollar liquidity, US funded hi-tech R&D, overseas acquisitions (of companies, raw materials, allies), commercialize new technologies and standards (internet, software) space and defense, et al. Last forty-year estimates, show that US obtained funding equal to one full year’s US GDP. At nil cost!

All this due to the US dollar’s reserve currency status!

Can Europe be far behind

The Euro unwinds!

The Euro unwinds!

Post-Plaza Accord, Europe decided to get into ‘reserve-currency’ game, with the launch of the Euro currency in Jan 2002. As an incentive to TT-Note holders, the ECB ‘allowed’ the Euro to appreciate – vis-à-vis the dollar. This gave windfall gains to countries holding Euro as a reserve currency.

From dollar parity in 2002, the EU appreciated by more than 60%. After the introduction of Euro, in the first six years, Euro-bond holders hit a gusher. Anyone who held Euro bonds from January 2002 upto Decemeber 2007, would have made some 80% return during this six years. A return of 15% per annum. Close to junk bond returns.

After the ECB took the bait, the US played a waiting game. After running with the overvaluation bait, for 8 years, the Euro- fish is now tired. It is not able to break free of the over-valuation hook. The US is now reeling in the fish.

With a ‘strong’ currency, the option for Euro-zone is massive and painful deflation. Wages, pensions, prices, welfare state benefits will need to come down – and drastically. Do they have the steel or the hunger to do this. Used to a gold-plated Welfare State, Euro-zone does not have the moral resolve to go on a cold turkey diet of frugality.

500 years ago, a poor and marginal Europe could take the risk – and inflict genocide, slaughter, war, crime on a hapless world. Today’s geriatric Europe, effete and crumbling, cannot repeat their run of ‘success’, confronted as it is, by a militarily prepared Asia. Modern Europe’s problem is compounded by the lack of availability of victims.

Which brings us to China.

Change in US Govt securities by China - which has ranged between 30%-60% of total reserves. (Image source and courtesy - http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn). Click for larger image.

Change in US Govt securities by China - which has ranged between 30%-60% of total reserves. (Image source and courtesy - http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn). Click for larger image.

Doing business with bankrupt customers

China’s currency reserves of some US$2.5 trillion, (Update – US$ 3.2 trillion August 2011) in rapidly depreciating Euros and dollars with manufacturing overcapacity, exports-growth economic model is building into a complicated pressure head. Waiting to blow up. Already under US pressure for a yuan revaluation, add complications like

  1. Empty building blocks combined with inflated real-estate prices
  2. Bloated banks loan ledgers with ballooning bad debts
  3. Low entrepreneurial levels with foreign ownership of Chinese businesses
  4. Aging population with a dominant public sector
  5. Increasing foreign exchange reserves of depreciating currencies

and the Chinese Growth story begins to sputter.

As for the Rest of the world

The real challenge for the rest of the world, will be, one, wealth protection. Easily done. Buy gold.

Two, how do we let events unfold – safely. Insulating ourselves from the cycle of calamity, catastrophe, chaos, confrontation, confusion, crises – and then finally a crash.

A cycle that a 86-year young, mentally active, Gujju stock-broker, in Mumbai, shivering with Parkinson’s, explained to me, a few days ago.

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