Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why China's Stimulus Plan Will Change the World

Some of the macro implications of China's plan (one quarter of which will go to water, renewables and 'the environment') from Motley Fool:

Brazil's President Lula told his country in September, "People ask me about the [financial] crisis, and I answer, go ask Bush. It is his crisis, not mine."

Fifty days later, British Treasury Secretary Stephen Timms told a conference of G-20 nations gathered in Sao Paulo, Brazil: "We are in extraordinary times, the global economy is facing shocks which are wholly without precedent and we need a new approach. … It is a global crisis. It therefore requires an international response."

In other words, what goes around, comes around. Global schadenfreude toward a stupid and greedy United States and its subprime mortgage meltdown has rapidly become global concern about how to rescue the world from an all-encompassing financial disaster....

...One country's plan to step up

Against that backdrop, China announced a 4-trillion-yuan ($586 billion) stimulus package for its domestic economy this past Sunday. It plans to fund extensive infrastructure construction, aid poor farmers, and cut export taxes.

While China's plan has clear beneficiaries, and should help keep more laborers in their jobs and prop up domestic consumer spending, the most important (and underreported) aspect of the plan is how it will fundamentally change the economic relationship between the U.S. and China....

...Here's how it will be
This is why the decoupling argument matters. Many analysts have pointed to the thousands of factories that have shut down in China in these past few months as evidence that a slowdown in American spending will cause a depression in China -- potentially even leading to regime change. But in fact, our trade imbalance with China is artificially preserved by the aforementioned currency peg, and by the decision of China's state-run banks to make uneconomic loans to businesses it deemed worth propping up.

China has paid heavily for this relationship. Rather than invest its surplus cash in its own country, the Chinese poured money back into the U.S. to further spur our debt-fueled consumption. (Put less artfully, some poor Chinese guy in Shaanxi province was essentially helping you pay your mortgage.)

The announced stimulus package reverses that. Hundreds of billions of dollars that would have gone to propping up the greenback are now being reinvested in China, helping it to transition from its reliance on exports to a self-sustaining economy. So while China isn't yet decoupled from its export markets, this new spending plan will help it along that path.

What you need to do to survive
China's huge currency reserves are about to be put to use, and while there will be some real and perhaps severe bumps along the way, the China that comes out on the other side will be a heck of a lot stronger, more independent, and more decoupled than the one we've seen up to now....MORE