Pressing for yuan's rise hurts world economy

Updated: 2011-12-08 09:23


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BEIJING - Some Western countries are renewing pressure on China to let the yuan rise as they grapple with their own struggling economies, but a host of experts warn that the tactic cannot cure the global economic imbalance and instead would impede a fledgling recovery.

Yuan is not undervalued

Chen Zhiwu, a Yale University economics professor, said that in terms of purchasing power, the yuan should instead be depreciated. That is because, Chen said, many necessities such as food, clothing, appliances and furniture are more expensive in China than in the United States.

Yao Shujie, an economics professor at the University of Nottingham, said he believes that the yuan is neither undervalued nor overvalued as its exchange rates have reached equilibrium levels.

Should the yuan be tagged undervalued just because of China's trade surplus with the United States -- as Washington has reasoned, then many other countries with favorable balances with China would deem the Chinese currency as overvalued, he said.

Huang Yuchuan, a senior researcher at Carnegie International Peace Foundation, noted that the yuan has for years seen an annual appreciation of 5 percent to 6 percent and that the ratio of China's trade surpluses to GDP has dropped significantly over the past five years.

Meanwhile, he pointed out that the deeper causes of the US trade deficit with China go beyond China, because half of Chinese exports are assembled products whose components are manufactured by others, including the United States itself.

Pressure on yuan is generated by political needs

Jim O'Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, told CNN in a recent interview that the United States is playing politics when pressing China on the yuan's rise and that the topic has become increasingly boring.

China's trade surplus with the United States used to account for 10 percent of GDP, but now only 2 percent, which shows that the US trade deficit problem with China has witnessed considerable positive development, he said.

O'Neill said that US policymakers should be aware that the political trick of pressing China on the yuan is an unnecessary and useless strategy.

Andrey Ostrovsky, deputy director of the Far East Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the United States hopes to reduce its trade and balance-of-payments deficits through a rapid rise of the yuan. That, he said, is the main purpose of its demand for the yuan's appreciation.

Ostrovsky pointed out that a more practical approach for the United States would be to increase exports of high-tech and high-value-added products to China.

Such views were shared by Toshiki Kanamori, managing director of Japan's Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd Kanamori said that, as China has contended, any appreciation of the yuan is unlikely to fundamentally solve the domestic economic problems of the United States.

A sharp rise in yuan is harmful to global economy 

Yuri Tavrovsky, a professor at Moscow Friendship University, said that against the current global economic backdrop, Western countries, especially the United States, are likely to increase pressure on China to appreciate its yuan even faster.

However, any rapid appreciation would harm China's economic growth and eventually hinder global economic recovery because the Chinese economy is an important engine for world economic growth, the professor said.

Tavrovsky said the Chinese government undoubtedly has the right to manage its own currency and the US attempts to force China to appreciate the yuan would not succeed.

The professor noted that people will not forget that the forced appreciation of the yen in the 1980s proved to be ruinous for Japan's economy.

Ostrovsky said the European debt crisis and the US economic crisis could linger for a long time, which increases the likelihood that the West will put more pressure on China over the yuan.

But it does not mean China would automatically increase the value of the yuan, Ostrovsky added, noting that China has reiterated on many occasions that it opposes rapid and irrational yuan appreciation.

It is quite obvious, he said, that a rapid yuan appreciation would result in a huge influx of speculative capital that could have a huge impact on China's financial system.

Huang said the issue of global imbalance should be addressed through multilateral approaches and cooperation, instead of by unilateral moves such as passing a bill to force China to appreciate its currency.

Huang also expressed the belief that, in the future, trade tensions will not be created by such issues as yuan appreciation and currency wars. Instead, Huang said, they will focus on other aspects including technology transfers and profit-sharing plans.

Yao said China-US trade is a win-win interaction, noting that the US economy registered a better performance in the first three quarters this year, which helped push the world economic recovery.

On the other hand, the role of the Chinese economy in pushing the world economy toward recovery has also been significant since 2008, Yao added.

The two countries are both important forces in bringing the world out of the current crisis, so instead of confronting each other, they should cooperate for the benefit of the whole world, he said.

Zhang Yesui, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, has said that the yuan's exchange rates did not cause the trade imbalance between China and the United States and that its appreciation alone would not end the high US unemployment.

Zhang stressed that the trade imbalance was caused by a combination of factors, including structural trade and investment differences, divergent patterns of savings and consumption and the international division of labor, rather than the issue of the yuan's exchange rates.