Bowing To China: What It Means To Our Future
April 28, 2010 by John Myers
“Let China sleep, for when China awakes she will shake the world.” Napoleon Bonaparte.
American greed and extravagance has awakened China, and an eastern shadow is being cast on an indebted and divided America. At stake is our economic future.
It seems hard to believe but in just two generations, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, America has crumpled from world kingpin to global has-been. In fact this month President Obama bowed before Paramount Leader of China, Hu Jintao, at the nuclear security summit.
Little wonder our President defers to the Chinese leader. The Treasury Department’s monthly Treasury International Capital report was just released and it shows China with $877.5 billion in long-term Treasury debt. Even worse, the Obama administration needs the Chinese government to buy part of the estimated $2.4 trillion in Treasury debt that Washington must sell off this year.
The Obama administration is praying that the Communists will waddle-up and buy hundreds of more billions of dollars in Uncle Sam IOUs. So far things are not panning out. In February China trimmed its holdings of United States Treasury debt by 1.3 percent, the fourth consecutive decline.
Unless China antes up the recovery will crash and burn. Without robust foreign demand for U.S. Treasuries, interest rates that Washington pays to keep the country solvent will soar.
Business Week reported last week that U.S.-China relations are strained on several fronts, including Chinese censorship, the value of the Yuan, the Copenhagen climate conference, even Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama. The final point underscores just how little leverage America has—the spiritual leader had to be shown out the back door of the White House, sidestepping trash, for fear that the Chinese might be angered.
Nixon’s Biggest Blunder
Short of sacrificing Taiwan and living in economic servitude, there may be no pleasing China. According to The Daily Caller, “In either public or private, China will not take orders from the U.S. or anyone else. Not only has Obama’s rhetorical magic not worked on China, he has received a public dressing down by Chinese officials. It was simply a reminder of new global realities. Ultimately, no one will tame China.”
It is a far cry from the world we knew 40 years ago. History may yet declare that Richard Nixon’s worst blunder was not Watergate but his awakening of China. When Nixon played his China card in 1972 the U.S. had no diplomatic relations, no embassy; not even an established route of communication with China. But in less than two generations the Soviet Union, America’s then rival, crumbled. Beijing has filled the vacuum. Today it is our largest creditor and it is becoming an unprecedented economic colossus.
This year China’s gross domestic product (GDP) will top $5 trillion, making it the world’s second-largest economy behind only the U.S. In fact, China has eclipsed Japan five years sooner than was forecast. According to The New York Times, China has also surpassed Japan in having the biggest trade surplus and foreign currency reserves, as well as the highest steel production. China has even overtaken Japan as the world’s largest automobile producer.
C.H. Kwan, a senior fellow at the Nomura Institute of Capital Market Research, left China in the late 1970s to capture the magic that was Japan. Today he believes he got it all wrong. Based on current growth and currency trends, Kwan forecasts that the Chinese economy will surpass the United States by 2039. And that date could move up to 2026 if China lets its currency appreciate by a mere 2 percent a year.
“We’re no longer talking about China making lots of shoes,” said Kwan. “China is about to leave everyone behind in a big way.”
In terms of wealth and power China is becoming what America use to be. China’s GDP grew a shade less than 12 percent in the first quarter of this year. Even more impressively, inflation remained low during the quarter, up just over 2 percent. Strip away food prices, which have jumped because of a major drought, and inflation would almost be flat.
What makes China’s accomplishment so remarkable is that 40 years ago the nation was impoverished. An estimated 90 million Chinese died under Chairman Mao’s rule, making him thrice as an effective killer of his people than was Joseph Stalin. China has polished up its image on the world stage with dalliances like hosting the Olympic Games, but Mao’s grand ambitions are very much intact.
According to the April 15, FX Street.com: “China is out for world domination.”
No Tickey No Money
China’s military may not yet challenge the U.S., but Beijing wields the world’s most powerful weapon—credit. China’s foreign reserves, the world’s largest, rose to a new high of $2.45 trillion at the end of March, up a whopping 25 percent from a year earlier.
It wasn’t until 2006, or 30 years after Mao’s death, that China accumulated its first $1 trillion in foreign reserves. Yet by last April that amount had doubled to $2 trillion and by the end of this year Beijing may hold in its hands $3 trillion in foreign reserves. If Obama gets his way, $1 trillion of that sum will be in liquid Treasury instruments. All that money has a lot of strings.
Last month Premier Wen Jiabao, China’s top economic official, lectured Washington to take "concrete steps" to reassure Treasury investors. Keep in mind the irony: Jiabao, a communist, is demanding that the Obama administration rein in big government spending and preserve the greenback’s integrity. While Obama bows publicly to Beijing, he appears oblivious to their demands on curbing spending. The consequences of this will be horrendous.
Our future boils down to Washington’s insatiable demand for more money. Earlier this month Commodity Online reported that seven U.S. states are in worse financial condition than Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. “Shelter may prove hard to find. With a $3.83 trillion budget, a $12.3 trillion federal government debt, a $1.35 trillion 2010 budget deficit and $63 trillion in unfunded liabilities, the fiscal condition of the U.S. has come into question and foreign interest in U.S. Treasuries has declined.”
As the graph above shows, rates on 10-year Treasuries are now touching on 4 percent, twice as high as they were 16 months ago. If China continues to withdraw from weekly multi-billion dollar Treasury auctions—or worse yet starts to sell some of its Treasury holdings—interest rates will soar. Given the vastness of America’s borrowing needs I would not be surprised to see Treasury yields double again over the next 12 months. That will damn the recovery and kill the bull market in Big Board Stocks. So far only Obama has been bowing down to China, but unless he gets a grip on federal spending, we will all have to get in the prone position.
Action To Take: Sell any and all bonds other than three-month Treasury bills. Lock in interest rates wherever possible. Don’t buy into the bull market on Wall Street. It is as hollow as a fortune cookie.
Yours for real wealth and good health,
Myers’ Energy and Gold Report