The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology.
It widely is believed China must continue to increase its exports to maintain its economic growth and to pay its massive population. The desire for growing exports is what drives China’s reluctance to revalue the yuan upward.
But, does China’s economy really rely on ever-increasing exports? China is a Monetarily Sovereign nation. As such it has the unlimited ability to create its own sovereign currency.
Think of what happens when Chinese Factory “A” exports to the United States. Factory “A” receives dollars, a foreign currency it cannot use to pay its workers. So how does Factory “A” pay its workers? It exchanges these dollars for the yuan China creates from thin air.
This means, for every dollar Chinese Factory “A” receives, the Chinese government creates 6.7 yuan (current exchange rate), which it gives to Factory “A” in exchange for U.S. dollars. Factory “A” pays its workers with yuan, created by the Chinese government, while the Chinese government amasses dollars.
The Chinese government can use some of those dollars for international trade (oil purchases, etc.), but many become T-securities held in China’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank. In short, China’s economic growth requires the Chinese government to create yuan from thin air.
If Chinese factories exported less and received fewer dollars, the Chinese government could continue to create and distribute the same number or yuan as now. The only difference: Instead of giving these yuan to its people in exchange for many dollars, it merely would give those same yuan to the people, while receiving fewer dollars.
There would be less accumulation of T-securities at the FRB, a difference that has scant effect on the Chinese worker or on the Chinese economy.
How would the Chinese government give yuan to its people, if it were not exchanging yuan for dollars? Answer: More domestic deficit spending on things like roads, health care, retirement benefits, etc. A case might be made that the Chinese population would be better off receiving salaries for building domestic roads, providing domestic health care, etc., than receiving salaries for creating toys, clothing and other export items of no domestic value.
Without exports, the Chinese government would create about the same number of yuan as it now creates with exports. The entire domestic process would be affected very little. Yes, China can use U.S. dollars for certain imports, but I suspect it already has stockpiled enough dollars for that purpose to last several lifetimes, so the question becomes: Does China need to export as much as it does?
Monetarily non-sovereign nations like the PIIGS, which cannot produce unlimited amounts of money, need to have a positive balance of payments. So the other question is: Why does the U.S., which is monetarily sovereign, want to increase exports?
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
No nation can tax itself into prosperity