Beijing could also justify pulling back sharply from U.S. Treasuries if the dollar were to plunge, perhaps because of Washington's failure to curb its budget deficit and debt.
"I worry that we could be at a tipping point," said Eswar Prasad, a Brookings Institution economist and former International Monetary Fund official with responsibility for China.
"If the Chinese say 'We're not buying any more Treasuries,' this could act as a trigger around which nervous market sentiment coalesces," he said. "People could start wondering how the U.S. is going to finance its deficit."
APPEAL TO OTHER COUNTRIES
In 2009, economist Brad Setser suggested the United States could establish emergency currency swap lines with political allies if a country like China ever abandoned the U.S. debt market.
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