Tags: China | Expert | US | investments

China Expert: China to Keep US Investments Despite 'Hostage' Charges

Wednesday, 17 Aug 2011 08:45 AM

By Forrest Jones and Kathleen Walter

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China has rebuked the U.S. for its handling of the debt crisis, accusing Washington of holding the world hostage by running up debts and printing too much money with little regard for the dollar, the world's reserve currency.

One China expert, however, says such criticism will have little impact on U.S. economic and foreign policy since China can't afford to take its business elsewhere and remains heavily dependent on exports to the U.S. economy.

"We're in bed with the Chinese, and just as we need them, they need us, and China, frankly, doesn't have a lot of alternative investment options," says Mark A. Groombridge, a former diplomat and executive director of Decide America, an organization dedicated to generating discussion on national security.

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China has $1.16 trillion invested in U.S. debt alone, probably closer to $1.6 trillion when factoring in the use of financial intermediaries. Groombridge says.

That means the Asian giant holds 17 percent of U.S. debt, which does give Beijing grounds to express concern with U.S. economic policy.

China has also said that gaping deficits and a weaker dollar may merit a new global reserve currency or an investment alternative to the dollar of some sort, perhaps in Japan or Europe, but that's not going to happen any time soon.

"It's not terribly realistic," Groombridge says.

"Europe and Japanese markets are not as deep or as liquid as in the United States, so it would be much more difficult for China to divest from the United States into those markets."

China, meanwhile, has long been accused of keeping its currency, the yuan, artificially weak.

Exports fuel the Chinese economy, and a weaker currency makes Chinese products more competitive abroad.

The problem, Groombridge says, is that even though many industries in China have done well over the last few decades, such as textiles and footwear, they are starting to see cheaper competitors pop up in other parts of Asia, particularly in the southeast.

Less export revenue and a weak currency can lead to bank defaults and inflation rates going up, which could be a nasty cocktail for the Chinese economy.

That means China needs a more consumer-driven economy going forward.

"Their primary issue is they want to try and increase domestic demand because a lot of their export-led growth strategies have been in sectors that if they continue to invest in them, will no longer be profitable."

One Chinese ratings agency has said the dollar should be cast aside as the world's reserve currency.

Guan Jianzhong, chairman of Dagong Global Credit Rating, says the dollar will be "gradually discarded by the world," and adds the "process will be irreversible."

Markets are still wondering if they should take Dagong Global Credit Rating seriously.

"I do not know of anyone assigning risk assessment to their portfolio according to Dagong," says Steen Jakobsen, chief economist at Saxo Bank, according to CNBC.

"However, clearly the rating industry could do with some competition and deviance from firm beliefs."

Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador in Beijing, Gary Locke, says China's investments are safe.

"The United States and China have a profoundly important and complex diplomatic and economic relationship, one with challenges, to be sure, but which also holds great promise for expanded cooperation and collaboration," Locke says, according to Reuters.

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