In recent years, America has run massive budget and trade deficits, both of which put downward pressure on the dollar – so devaluing China's reserves. Beijing has remained tight-lipped, worried less about diplomatic niceties than the financial implications of voicing its concerns. If the markets thought China would buy less dollar-denominated debt going forward, the US currency would weaken further, compounding Beijing's wealth-loss.
American leaders have relied on this Catch-22 for some time, guffawing that China is in so deep it has no choice but to carry on "sucking-up" US debt. But Beijing's Communist hierarchy is now so worried about America's wildly expansionary monetary policy that it is speaking out, despite the damage that does to the value of China's reserves.
Last weekend, Cheng Siwei, a leading Chinese policy maker, said that his country's leaders were "dismayed" by America's recourse to quantitative easing. "If they keep printing money to buy bonds, it will lead to inflation," he said. "So we'll diversify incremental reserves into euros, yen and other currencies".
This is hugely significant. China is now more worried about America inflating away its debts than about those debts being exposed to currency risk. Economists at Western banks making money from QE still say deflation is more likely than inflation. As this column has long argued, they are talking self-serving tosh.
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