June 2nd, 2009
07:11 AM GMT
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BEIJING, China — Not long ago, the U.S. government was talking tough with accusations of currency manipulation by China. But U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner struck a very different tone on his visit to Beijing this week.

At his speech at Peking University and with government officials, Geithner sought to reassure Beijing that the value of the dollar was safe – as are the $768 billion in U.S. treasuries Beijing owns.

The tough talk has evaporated with the spiraling credit crisis and the ballooning U.S. budget deficit of $2 trillion – nearly 13 percent of GDP. Geithner assured the Chinese that the U.S. would work to cut that deficit down to 3 percent of GDP once the economy stabilized and was on the path to recovery.

Geithner says the U.S. aims to rebalance the world economy with China exporting less and importing more – preferably from the U.S., to help reduce the massive trade surplus.

How these twin economic powers can escape this embrace, however, is another matter.

Chinese bloggers, economists and editorial writers are complaining that their government is financing U.S. hegemony and urges Beijing to stop bankrolling U.S. debt. But for the Chinese economy, there are few credible options for what to do with its massive foreign currency reserves.

Should it move that cash back to China it could trigger an appreciation of the value of the yuan. Chinese asset-buying across the globe would raise thorny political concerns. The U.S. credit market is still the best place to park its cash reserves.

For the U.S., the dance is difficult because if Chinese exports decline, so too does the cash China has to buy U.S. debt.

The bond between the two has been likened to two drunks trying to carry each other down the street, or that of a crack dealer and buyer. Regardless of metaphor, it’s a very complicated relationship – one in which the fate of the world economy hangs in the balance.

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Filed under: BusinessChinaUnited States

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. JesterJames

    I say we sell Alaska to China and call it even. Kill two birds with one stone, we get rid of the national debt and Palin. Looks like a pretty good deal. :p

    June 2, 2009 at 8:17 am |
  2. Per Holmlund

    More of one drunk and one on drugs

    Who believes in what US officials are preaching today? I think most of the 20 percent, those with brains, recalls the assurances that were made by US government officials back in 2007. No problem! And then Lehman, Bear, Citicorp, AIG, FM, WM, GM, Chrysler… And today the same music: We will reduce the deficit. Yesterday US had a dream, today US have hope. Hope that other peoples, Chinese, money shall be the saver.

    And the Chinese are smiling because they are imaging the top. You reach the top and you don’t have to listen to others because you are choosing the music. I remember a (small) lunch in Shanghai in 2001 when the market still was high in China. At that time the official made jokes of Russia which seemed to be there reference at that time.

    Today the Chinese have changed reference object. It’s not Russia anymore, it has become US and they are like some of the foreign cab drivers in Manhattan. You ask about US and everything is if not great, god. You start criticizing the Bush war and in a second the god becomes bad. The Chinese are starting to feel like the Japanese back in 1989: we are the champions. And being the Champ I want to bee treated like one.

    In 2008 we could feel the effect of when the price of growth became growth itself. Tomorrow it can be a lot of the same but worse. The political heat wills probably bee many degrees higher. Yes we can, we can burn money is possible as long as there are money to burn. Something that could change when the recovery cycle turns down. 2000 surplus, 2007 deficit and 201x…

    And with a stronger China and a more debt burden US it could be more of marches than cancan. So watch your back and believe what you see and not what you hear.

    June 2, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  3. dan in Tucson

    What a vicious circle we have gotten ourselves into. And scary. f we don't bow to China's every demand they could call our debt. They used our own corporate methods of enslaving workers against us. How ironic. Sad thing is, the little guy is the one who will suffer, once again.

    June 2, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  4. h in nyc

    We, Americans did this to ourselves. Before we criticize the Chinese, everyone should take a look at themselves. How many cars do you own,? Is it a small economy car or luxury car? What percentage of your income do you save?

    We, Americans have gotten fat and lazy. Not just physically fat, but economically. We have grown accustom to leveraging everything to enjoy today.

    June 3, 2009 at 7:01 am |
  5. calvin


    who would of guessed that first China would not import GM's Hummer's because of shady import taxes only to later buy the bankrupt division for pennies on the dollar, with plans of selling them to it's own populous . Are Our politicians idiots or what!! pay attention to what they are doing to other countries then ask why are we seeing our demise in manufacturing while this communist country grows in power.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  6. SDWoo in Florida

    Not all Americans are the blame for this crisis for most are hard working and decent. Our country is in this mess because of phony accounting practices, globalization, and greed of the status quo!

    June 3, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  7. Michael Jordan

    Geithner your a joke. Don't want to step on anyone toes. You don't care what that country is doing to this country. If you cannot look out for the people who you work for the citizens of the United States then step aside. We need to take a hard stance with China and other countries who undermine ours. Geithner do us all a favor and leave now before you become a bigger embarrassment to us all. You are one of the reason we are in this mess to begin with being a Wall Street puppet.

    June 4, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
  8. Roxana

    Business with China and trading with them worries me. I'm afraid of China becoming more rich than us and becoming more powerful. If this does occur i feel they would try to convert other countires to communism.

    I would really encourage a plan that stops working so closely with china and i wouldn't want to oew china anything. We need to get out of this economic crisis fast before countries like China start buying all our major corporations out.

    June 5, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  9. C P Madhusudan

    I wonder if there are any solutions to this issue which could enable a soft landing for all sides. It is pertinent to note that the 2 drunks are holding up the world's economy and if they lurch away, the worst affected would be the poor people of the world.

    June 8, 2009 at 9:51 am |
  10. jaderdavila

    the poor serves as clown for the rich
    the chinese laughed while gerthner was talking
    the dollar being up or down makes no difference
    third world countries that make a living by selling commodities
    are accepting yuan as a form of payment
    so when they buy manufactured goods from china
    they pay in the same yuan
    they are letting the yuan circulate in their internal markets too
    since the prices of things come in yuan

    June 9, 2009 at 11:35 am |
  11. Patriot

    July 4th is right around the corner. Perhaps there are still lessons to be learned about independence and relationships.

    June 10, 2009 at 3:29 am |
  12. DC in Tokyo

    This whole situation is much better for America than it is for China.

    This is simply a repeat of Japan in 1989. China today has a trade surplus with America, just as Japan did in the '80s. Since it sells more products than it buys, what can they do with the extra money?

    If they bring the money back home to China, then the Yuan will appreciate too quickly and simply evaporate. A strong Yuan means less demand for their exports, and their economy will start to shrink, just like Japan learned.

    So China does the only smart thing it can, invest in foreign securities (worldwide, not just American paper!). These are just bonds people! China simply gets a tiny return on these so called 'loans'. If they ever do 'call in the loans', all they will get is their own money back, which we will be happy to 'print' for them, which will further appreciate the Yuan, which further hurts their exports.

    This is a normal cycle. When the Japanese Yen appreciated too high to make their exports attractive, America simply moved to China. When the Chinese Yuan appreciates too high and their exports become expensive, then we will move to India, then Latin America, then Africa.

    It is taking these media moguls a long time to end their Bush era fear mongering. A wise leader once said, "There is nothing to fear but fear itself".

    June 11, 2009 at 12:33 am |
  13. DA Collins

    Since the end of WWII, the U.S.A. has remained the undisputed worldwide leader Economically, Technologically, Militarily, Politically, Etceterally. America utilized post-war Europe as a source of cheap products in the 1950-60's. Then America used Japan in the 1970-80's. Now America is Using China in the 1990s-2010's. And most forecasts say that this cycle will continue every 25 years or so with India, Latin America, Africa, and when the oil is gone, even Arabia will need to switch to farming and manufacturing. I can even see high-tech manufacturing moving into Scandinavia due to their investments in renewable energy and environmental protection.

    This recent Self-inflicted world-wide economic crisis has propelled America even further ahead of everyone else going into the future.
    Perhaps that was the plan all along?

    June 11, 2009 at 1:23 am |
  14. Andreas, Stockholm

    China is scared out of it's pants right now but keeping a very cool posture. It is clear that the US dollar heavy Chinese foreign reserves is a liability more than an asset right now as the US currency is about to depreciate perhaps more than in half a century. The artificial life support that several Asian countries have given the US dollar is now beginning to taper off slowly. Asia is certainly not to blame for what is happening now, exhibit A is how bond traders are speculating against the Federal Reserve's attempts to keep rates low.

    Re : DA Collins :

    You and I apparently do not live on the same planet because I don't understand how you can say this current crisis has 'propelled' America further ahead of everyone else. The USA has embarked on a single road so far – trying to spend it's way out of this debt crisis. I for one hope it works because if it doesn't era Pax Americana is over. The consumption binge in the US has after two decades come to an abrupt halt and the trick now is for the US itself to realize this before the rest of the world does and stops buying the dollar.

    btw. high-tech mfg has been in Scandinavia for a very long time. Check your own assembly plants and you will notice i.e. robots from here.

    June 11, 2009 at 5:25 am |
  15. Bill

    In Bush's worst year (2008) his deficit went way up to $455 billion.
    In Obama's first year (2009) he wants to create a $1.7 TRILLION deficit.

    Note: US GDP is $13.7 trillion and current debt is $11 trillion.... that's excluding "off-balance sheet" obligations to Fannie Mae ......

    So what is Obama spending ALL of this money on? Most will go on buying garbage mortgages that everyone will default on and bankrupt auto companies. The 2010 predicted Obama deficit of $1.1 trillion (which will go up) should go heavily to paying off the interest owed from 2009.

    2009 America asks for "Change"
    2012 America will ask "Can you spare some change?"

    June 12, 2009 at 10:58 am |
  16. jack

    I think Chinese citizens are mistaken about hegemony. With 1.3 billion people, the any pie would get divided quite small. They still would have to brown nose their boss as prices rise. The idea that the West does nothing and is lazy is false. If so, then how did we end up ruling the earth? We must have done something right. What needs to happen is the pie itself needs to grow, so China can be accomodated into it without dragging others down into a hole, and at the same time cleanly so the earth doesn't abort humanity prematurely.

    June 15, 2009 at 5:59 am |
  17. Jim Curticec

    If I were the Chinese I'd stop buying US debt, and start buying US property, and assets. They could very soon own our whole country, and everything in it!

    Uncle Jim

    June 19, 2009 at 8:06 am |
  18. Gaston

    sight!!!!!!!!!!!! It is always the average working man or little guy who ends up loosing, it doesn't matter the GOP or Democrats running the White House or US Congress. It is so sad our good jobs are being outsourced to China & India for the sake of the CEOs & their shareholders. America get ready, we are heading the same road like Great Britain & France, a world power with negligible manufacturing base & high school kids who are being outsmarted by their S Korean, Indian, Hong Kong, Singapore & Chinese counterparts.

    June 28, 2009 at 7:38 pm |
  19. justin tyme

    I don't understand why no body gets it. Money isn't even real it is a ficticious number that represents the idea of value which is only made through labor and resources. Our people sell a piece of themselves everyday for a mark that isn't worth what it was today when it is tomorrow. Everyone puts their faith in people who have risen to power for purposes other than collective well being of humanity and then wonder why the world falls to hell. It is easy to point the finger of blame but the blame rests on all of us who are old enough to know better. What ever happened to the true American dream that our forefathers fought so valiantly for. What ever happened to the light of life that manifests a positive destiny. What ever happened to standing up for what is right. We should all be ashamed as we have completely short changed our future because most were so greedy and selfish that all they cared about was short run happiness not knowing that materiality could never satiate human beings. I know that there is that faint voice in the distance telling all of us the same thing. It screams for our attention yet we ignore as we are only concerned with the next score, sexual encounter, party or things of the like. So consider this, if you are truly upset about how things are going and actually want to make a Real Change, then you should stop and think about how you are living your life analyze those things that are only contributing to eventual chaos and then devise a plan to fix it. If we can just unite for the right one time just one time we can bring heaven to Earth for the love of God.

    June 29, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  20. Newell

    the world must come together to survive. I think we can pull it off . We have gotten this far with out totally blowing it .

    June 30, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  21. Tang Mu

    A realistic remedy to our BIG financial problem with the Chinese is to simply NOT buy any more of their goods. Yes, a tough call since we don't manufacture hardly anything anymore – but if you stop buying at Wallmart for starters, this can keep some our US dollars at home and give the American entrepreneur a fair chance to re-tool their manufacturing. The Chinese and most of Asia has no respect whatsoever for intellectual properties developed in the west – they clone it or copy it after westerners have paid for all the R&D. China is NOT your friend, America & Europe! wake up!

    August 13, 2009 at 3:26 am |
  22. keith talwall

    DA Collins, I think you make sense.

    The problem is all the past usable cheapos have potential (=ability) to be out control like the Germans and Japanese. They are so productive so they would not stay cheap and to be exploited for long. After done with expoiting the Chinese, are the Indians worthy to exploit? How about the huge growing Hispanic population in America? Are they of any use of world exploiting proccess. Can Mexico produce more valuable things than cocaine? When are we going to try to exploit the Russians?

    I maybe worry too much. I'd better kick back enjoying my hamberger and my girl-friend or my boy-friend. Things will come.

    August 19, 2009 at 1:09 am |

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