China to Diversify out of U.S. Dollars

According to an account published in the Daily Telegraph by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the Chinese government is quite anxious about money printing in the United States and the effect this printing could have on China’s dollar denominated reserve assets. 

For months now, the Chinese have signalled growing unease with U.S. monetary policy. And now comes the clearest signal yet that they are moving away from the dollar.  Cheng Siwei, a former vice-chairman of the Standing Committee, said point blank that the Chinese central bank was actively diversifying new reserve assets away from the U.S. dollar and into currencies like the Yen and the Euro.  He also mentioned Gold as an alternative the Chinese are exploring.

The $2 trillion in U.S. dollar reserves the Chinese already have are a sunk cost.  Going forward, the Chinese are free to do as they wish with incremental additions to reserves. To the degree that they sell dollars and buy gold, Yen or Euros, there can only be downward pressure on the U.S. dollar.

Cheng Siwei, former vice-chairman of the Standing Committee and now head of China’s green energy drive, said Beijing was dismayed by the Fed’s recourse to “credit easing”.

“We hope there will be a change in monetary policy as soon as they have positive growth again,” he said at the Ambrosetti Workshop, a policy gathering on Lake Como.

“If they keep printing money to buy bonds it will lead to inflation, and after a year or two the dollar will fall hard. Most of our foreign reserves are in US bonds and this is very difficult to change, so we will diversify incremental reserves into euros, yen, and other currencies,” he said.

China’s reserves are more than – $2 trillion, the world’s largest.

“Gold is definitely an alternative, but when we buy, the price goes up. We have to do it carefully so as not to stimulate the markets,” he added.

The comments suggest that China has become the driving force in the gold market and can be counted on to buy whenever there is a price dip, putting a floor under any correction.

Mr Cheng said the Fed’s loose monetary policy was stoking an unstable asset boom in China. “If we raise interest rates, we will be flooded with hot money. We have to wait for them. If they raise, we raise.

“Credit in China is too loose. We have a bubble in the housing market and in stocks so we have to be very careful, because this could fall down.”

Mr Cheng said China had learned from the West that it is a mistake for central banks to target retail price inflation and take their eye off assets.

“This is where Greenspan went wrong from 2000 to 2004,” he said. “He thought everything was alright because inflation was low, but assets absorbed the liquidity.”

Notice the statements about an asset bubble in China and the admission that loose U.S. monetary policy is a transmission mechanism.  Cheng is right to worry about asset prices in addition to consumer prices as the Chinese economy has a huge amount of overcapacity right now and any inflation is bound to become apparent in asset prices first.

To be sure, there are other voices in Chinese officialdom that are striking a less alarmist tone. One cannot rely on the words of one Chinese official to represent policy makers in China.  And Cheng never said the Chinese are now actively diversifying away from the U.S. dollar. Nevertheless, Chinese officials have been talking along this dollar bearish line for months now and I tend to believe their words will lead to action.

That is, at a minimum, bullish for Gold and bearish for the U.S. Dollar.


China alarmed by US money printingt.gif – Telegraph

Originally published at Credit Writedowns and reproduced here with the author’s permission.

One Response to "China to Diversify out of U.S. Dollars"

  1. Wilson   September 7, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Hi Edward,in your May essay you pointed out that the opposition party has outwardly spoken in regard to only lending money to US if it is in Samuria bonds. Now that the opposition has won, what are your current thoughts and follow up comments?Thanks!