Tuesday, May 19, 2020

China and the Future of the Dollar

From Henry Paulson, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, at Foreign Affairs, "The Future of the Dollar: U.S. Financial Power Depends on Washington, Not Beijing":

In late March, global financial markets were collapsing amid the chaos of the novel coronavirus pandemic. International investors immediately sought refuge in the U.S. dollar, just as they had done during the 2008 financial crisis, and the U.S. Federal Reserve had to make huge sums of dollars available to its global counterparts. Seventy-five years after the end of World War II, the primacy of the dollar has not waned.

The enduring dominance of the dollar is remarkable—especially given the rise of emerging markets and the relative decline of the U.S. economy, from nearly 40 percent of world GDP in 1960 to just 25 percent today. But the dollar’s status will be tested by Washington’s ability to weather the COVID-19 storm and emerge with economic policies that allow the country, over time, to manage its national debt and curb its structural fiscal deficit.

The stature of the dollar matters. The dollar’s role as the primary global reserve currency makes it possible for the United States to pay lower rates on dollar assets than it otherwise would. Equally significant, it enables the country to run larger trade deficits, reduces exchange-rate risk, and makes American financial markets more liquid. Finally, it favors U.S. banks because of their enhanced access to dollar funding.

That the dollar has maintained this stature for so long is a historic anomaly, particularly in the context of a rising China. The Chinese renminbi (RMB) has by far the greatest potential to assume a role rivaling that of the dollar. China’s economic size, prospects for future growth, integration into the global economy, and accelerated efforts to internationalize the RMB all favor an expanded role for the Chinese currency. But by themselves, these conditions are insufficient. And China’s much-touted successes in the realm of fintech—including its rapid deployment of mobile payment systems and the recent pilot project by the People’s Bank of China to test a digital RMB—will not change that. A central bank–backed digital currency does not alter the fundamental nature of the RMB.

Beijing still has major hurdles to overcome before the RMB can truly emerge as a primary global reserve currency. Among other transformative measures, it needs to make more progress in moving to a market-driven economy, improve corporate governance, and develop efficient, well-regulated financial markets that earn the respect of international investors so that Beijing can eliminate capital controls and turn the RMB into a market-determined currency.

Washington should be clear-eyed about what is actually at stake in the competition with China. The United States should maintain its lead in financial and tech innovation, but there is no need to exaggerate the impact of a Chinese digital reserve currency on the U.S. dollar. Above all, the United States must preserve the conditions that created the dollar’s primacy in the first place: a vibrant economy rooted in sound macroeconomic and fiscal policies; a transparent, open political system; and economic, political, and security leadership abroad. In short, sustaining the dollar’s status will not be determined by what happens in China. Rather, it will depend almost entirely on the United States’ ability to adapt its post-COVID-19 economy so that it remains a model of success...
Fuck China. The more the U.S. can do to weaken that communist kleptocracy the better.

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