[FoRK] China threatens 'nuclear option' of dollar sales

Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> on Wed Aug 8 03:33:43 PDT 2007

It's just talk, of course. The only way to win is not to play. 


China threatens 'nuclear option' of dollar sales

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Last Updated: 9:54am BST 08/08/2007

The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats
against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of
US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan

# Blog - Dollar to collapse?
Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in
recent days warning - for the first time - that Beijing may use its $1.33
trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter
pressure from the US Congress.

Shifts in Chinese policy are often announced through key think tanks and

Described as China's "nuclear option" in the state media, such action could
trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is already breaking
down through historic support levels.

It would also cause a spike in US bond yields, hammering the US housing
market and perhaps tipping the economy into recession. It is estimated that
China holds over $900bn in a mix of US bonds.

Xia Bin, finance chief at the Development Research Centre (which has cabinet
rank), kicked off what now appears to be government policy with a comment
last week that Beijing's foreign reserves should be used as a "bargaining
chip" in talks with the US.

"Of course, China doesn't want any undesirable phenomenon in the global
financial order," he added.

He Fan, an official at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, went even
further today, letting it be known that Beijing had the power to set off a
dollar collapse if it choose to do so.

"China has accumulated a large sum of US dollars. Such a big sum, of which a
considerable portion is in US treasury bonds, contributes a great deal to
maintaining the position of the dollar as a reserve currency. Russia,
Switzerland, and several other countries have reduced the their dollar

"China is unlikely to follow suit as long as the yuan's exchange rate is
stable against the dollar. The Chinese central bank will be forced to sell
dollars once the yuan appreciated dramatically, which might lead to a mass
depreciation of the dollar," he told China Daily.

The threats play into the presidential electoral campaign of Hillary Clinton,
who has called for restrictive legislation to prevent America being "held
hostage to economic decicions being made in Beijing, Shanghai, or Tokyo".

She said foreign control over 44pc of the US national debt had left America
acutely vulnerable.

Simon Derrick, a currency strategist at the Bank of New York Mellon, said the
comments were a message to the US Senate as Capitol Hill prepares legislation
for the Autumn session.

"The words are alarming and unambiguous. This carries a clear political
threat and could have very serious consequences at a time when the credit
markets are already afraid of contagion from the subprime troubles," he said.

A bill drafted by a group of US senators, and backed by the Senate Finance
Committee, calls for trade tariffs against Chinese goods as retaliation for
alleged currency manipulation.

The yuan has appreciated 9pc against the dollar over the last two years under
a crawling peg but it has failed to halt the rise of China's trade surplus,
which reached $26.9bn in June.

Henry Paulson, the US Tresury Secretary, said any such sanctions would
undermine American authority and "could trigger a global cycle of
protectionist legislation".

Mr Paulson is a China expert from his days as head of Goldman Sachs. He has
opted for a softer form of diplomacy, but appeared to win few concession from
Beijing on a unscheduled trip to China last week aimed at calming the waters.

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