【英语中国】中国推进汇改 开启结构调整新篇章

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2010-6-23 01:20

小艾摘要: China's move to make its exchange rate more flexible will help put the world's third-largest economy after the U.S. and Japan on a course to boost the spending power of its own consumers and ease th ...
China's move to make its exchange rate more flexible will help put the world's third-largest economy after the U.S. and Japan on a course to boost the spending power of its own consumers and ease the strains with other nations caused by its long reliance on exports.

The decision to drop the nearly two-year-old peg, announced by the central bank over the weekend, was a difficult one for Beijing's leaders, even though it is likely to result in only a modest appreciation of the yuan.

The leadership had to overcome fierce resistance from a domestic export lobby, as well as its own nervousness that the economic problems in Europe and elsewhere will add to the risks of a transformation that will alter the country's drivers of growth. Yet with pressure on China building in both the U.S. Congress and the Group of 20 major economies, the decision showed pragmatism and a desire to set China's economic relations with the world on a more sustainable footing.

'China is taking a cooperative stance. They want to show that China is contributing to the rebalancing globally,' said Wang Tao, an economist for UBS in Beijing. 'China may not act as speedily as many people want, but they are moving in the right direction.'

That direction is toward an economy less driven by selling goods to the rest of the world and more driven by the spending of its own consumers. Both China's trading partners and the country's own leaders say such a shift would be good for China and the rest of the world: It would make China less vulnerable to external troubles, while also reducing the politically troublesome trade surplus and providing more opportunities for international companies in the Chinese market.

'China is now speeding up the restructuring of the economy and transforming its growth model, a task that has been made even more important and urgent by the international financial crisis,' the central bank said in a statement, arguing that a flexible currency will help that effort.

The decision to loosen the currency is evidence the Chinese leadership can push through structural changes despite domestic opposition. The move was hailed by world leaders. 'China's decision to increase the flexibility of its exchange rate is a constructive step that can help safeguard the recovery and contribute to a more balanced global economy,' U.S. President Barack Obama said in a brief written statement. Leaders from Japan, Russia, and Europe also weighed in with approving statements.

China's move came just ahead of a summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Toronto next weekend, where China was set to face pressure to do more to aid the global recovery. Many of China's trading partners have been arguing that the peg kept the currency undervalued, giving Chinese-made goods an unfair edge and sapping other countries' ability to grow.

The decision to return to what China calls a managed floating exchange rate could help fend off an international confrontation over its currency practices -- though much will depend on how China actually lets the yuan trade. 'The significance of this policy will depend on how much the government of China allows the renminbi to appreciate over time,' Sander Levin (D., Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement, using the currency's official name.

Investors also are likely to welcome China's move, because it lowers the risk of a damaging trade conflict that could hamper the global recovery. China's central bank cited the solid recovery in the nation's domestic economy as allowing the move, a judgment that could strengthen investor confidence that has been shaken by the debt problems in Europe and a slowdown in Chinese housing sales.

China returned to a fixed currency amid the crisis after allowing some flexibility from mid-2005 to mid-2008, and defended the policy as providing important stability amid the global turmoil. But by preventing its currency from rising, China was favoring its exporters at the expense of those who would like to buy more goods from abroad. And export-driven growth was looking increasingly unsustainable, with U.S. consumers paying down their debt and U.S. politicians angry over the trade gap.

A stronger currency in China alters that balance, by giving local consumers more international purchasing power and putting pressure on exporters to up their game. That was a change that the International Monetary Fund and others saw as increasingly important in bringing about what all major countries say they want: a new economic order that allows the world to grow steadily without artificial government stimulus.

Although the currency is just one part of China's complex economic picture, it is a key part. A stronger currency matters over time, said IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, because it 'will help increase Chinese household income and provide the incentives necessary to reorient investment toward industries that serve the Chinese consumer.'

The announcement in Beijing caps months of intense diplomatic maneuvering by the Obama administration, and represents some payoff for the political capital it spent to smooth the way to a change.

In early April, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner delayed publication of a twice-yearly report on international currency practices. The move was sharply criticized by Congress, but was essential to the administration's plans to create a 'quiet period' when China wouldn't be subject to much public pressure on the currency. U.S. officials say the idea was to make it easier politically for China's leaders to move on the currency, as they could do so without appearing to yield to outside pressure.

A few weeks after announcing the delay, Mr. Geithner stopped in China after a trip to India, and he came away persuaded that Beijing was moving towards some action on the currency issue. But China didn't give a commitment on timing, and more weeks passed without any news.

Economists who had predicted that China would make a move before the unofficial deadline of the end of June -- when the G-20 leaders meet in Toronto -- started to push back their forecasts. And criticism of China in Congress started to heat up again, with Rep. Levin saying Congress would act if the G-20 summit passed without China changing course on the currency.

The Chinese did alert the Obama administration shortly before making the decision public. But publicly, Chinese officials continued to issue harshly worded rebuffs to questions about currency policy as late as Friday, keeping most of the world guessing right up to the surprise announcement on Saturday night. That delay allowed Beijing to achieve nearly ideal timing in both political and economic terms.

At the beginning of the year, currency derivative markets had been pricing in a rise in the yuan against the dollar of more than 3% over the next 12 months. But by the beginning of June, those expectations had collapsed to less than 1%, as investors got tired of waiting and scaled back bets on a gain in the yuan.

That means China can argue that its move wasn't pressured by financial markets and won't make speculators a profit. In addition, data released this month showed China's consumer price inflation going over 3% for the first time in a year and a half, boosting the argument for to use a stronger currency to tame higher prices.

Still, the currency move carries risks. Chinese policy makers are haunted by the example of Japan, which at the 1985 Plaza Accord agreed to a major appreciation of the yen against the dollar. Although there is debate about the causes, a real-estate bubble and a long economic slump followed in later years. The lesson many in China have taken from that history, rightly or wrongly, is that rapid swings in the exchange rate can be very damaging to domestic companies.

China's central bank addressed those fears head-on in announcing the decision, stating clearly that the exchange rate will be changed gradually so local companies have time to adjust properly and maintain their competitiveness. But that preference for gradual change is unlikely to appease longtime U.S. critics of China's currency policy, and could lead to continuing political problems for Beijing.

'There is a huge gap between what people in the U.S. Congress expect and what the Chinese authorities are really doing,' said Xiao Geng, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing.

Yet that insistence on gradualism shouldn't obscure the significance of the change in thinking on the currency that has taken place, Mr. Xiao said. 'After a few years of debate and study, the people in charge of this issue, including the top policy makers, are now quite clear about the necessity of allowing real appreciation in the medium and long term.'

Fundamentally, the decision to leave the peg shows that China's leaders recognize that such a strict currency regime is incompatible with their large and rapidly growing economy. Incomes in China are rising, and over the longer term that tends to push up the price of goods and services and also the value of the exchange rate.

If the government tried to resist that process by holding down the currency, the result, economists say, would be much higher inflation, which could lead to serious social and economic problems. By accepting and managing that process with a flexible exchange rate, China should be able to secure a better economic future for its people.

Said Li Daokui , an academic economist who sits on the central bank's monetary-policy committee: 'This marks the beginning of a new era.'

中国将采取措施提高人民币汇率的灵活性,此举将帮助这个仅次于美国和日本的世界第三大经济体走上提振国内消费者支出能力的道路,缓解因长期依赖出口与其他国家之间形成的紧张关系。

中国央行周末表示不再坚持实施了近两年的人民币盯住美元的做法。这对中国领导人来说是个艰难的决定,尽管此举可能只会带来人民币小幅升值。

相关报导增强人民币汇率灵活性的决定证明,尽管国内存在反对声,中国领导层仍能推动结构改革的实施。此举得到了世界各国领导人的赞扬。美国总统奥巴马(Barack Obama)在一份简短的声明中说,中国增强人民币汇率灵活性的决定是有建设性的举措,能够帮助确保经济的复苏,并有助于实现更加平衡的全球经济。日本、俄罗斯和欧洲的领导人也发表声明表示赞扬。

中国的此举恰逢G20主要经济体下周末在加拿大多伦多召开峰会之前。在峰会上,预计中国将在为推动全球复苏做出更大贡献方面面临压力。中国的很多贸易伙伴说,人民币盯住美元的做法使人民币被低估了,给了中国产商品不公平的竞争优势,挫伤了其他国家增长的能力。

回到中国称之为有管理的浮动汇率制的决定将帮助其抵挡来自国际社会关于中国汇率政策的压力,不过很多问题还要取决于中国在实际中如何操作。美国众议院筹款委员会(House Ways and Means Committee)主席列文(Sander Levin)在一份声明中说,这项政策的重要程度将取决于中国政府未来允许人民币升值的幅度。

AFP/Getty Images北京一家杂货店的收银员手拿100元钞票。照片拍摄于周日。投资者可能也会对中国的此举表示欢迎,因为它降低了发生贸易争端的风险,而这种具有破坏性的争端会阻碍全球复苏。中国央行将经济回升向好的基础进一步巩固称为实行汇改的前提,这一观点将增强此前曾因欧洲债务问题和中国房屋销售放缓而动摇的投资者信心。

中国曾在2005年年中至2008年年中允许人民币汇率有管理的浮动,但在金融危机期间恢复了人民币盯住美元机制,并称这在全球经济动荡期间提供了一个重要稳定性。但阻止人民币升值的做法在令中国出口商受益的同时,却损害了那些希望购买更多进口商品的人的利益。随着美国消费者疲于偿还债务以及美国政界人士对贸易逆差感到愤怒,这种靠出口拉动的经济增长模式看起来越来越缺乏可持续性。

然而人民币走强可以改变这种局面,因为如此一来中国本土消费者的国际购买力得以增强,出口商的出口价格也将被迫提高。这种变化是国际货币基金(IMF)等认为的、对于带来经济新秩序日显重要的东西。而这种经济新秩序也是几乎所有大国都希望看到的,它能使世界经济在没有政府人为刺激的情况下稳步增长。

尽管汇率政策只是中国复杂经济情况的一部分,但却是关键的一部分。IMF总裁卡恩(Dominique Strauss-Kahn)说,人民币升值从长期来开意义重大,因为它将有助于增加中国家庭的收入、带动投资转向工业领域,而这又将服务于中国消费者。

中国政府的上述公告为奥巴马政府持续数月的密集外交活动画上了句号,也意味着美国政府为推动中国汇改所投入的政治资本取得了一定回报。

4月上旬,美国财政部长盖特纳(Timothy Geithner)推迟发布了一年两次的国际货币情况报告。这一举动虽受到了国会的猛烈批评,但在中国在人民币问题上不屈服于过多外界压力的一个时期,它在美国政府制定的“安静期”计划中起到了重要作用。美国官员说,这样做的初衷是为了让中国领导人处理汇率问题时在政治上更加从容,因为如果他们有所举动的话,看起来就不像是屈从于外部压力而为。

在宣布推迟发布上述报告的几个星期后,盖特纳在访问印度后来到中国。离开中国时他相信北京已准备在汇率问题上采取一些行动。不过中国没有给出具体的时间表,数周后,仍然没有任何消息。

那些曾预计中国将在6月底、也就是G-20多伦多峰会召开前这一非正式期限前有所行动的经济学家开始收回他们的预言。国会对中国的批评再次升温,众议员列文说,如果G-20峰会结束时中国在汇率问题上仍未有所改变,国会将采取行动。

中国政府的确在即将公开宣布这项决策前通告了奥巴马政府。但在公开场合,迟至上周五,中国官员仍严辞否决对中国汇率政策的质疑,让全球对此仍猜测不已,直至周六晚中国宣布这一惊人的决定。从政治与经济两方面看,这种拖延使中国赢得了近乎理想的政策推出时机。

今年初,货币衍生品市场对人民币兑美元的计价一直比去年12月份高出3%。但至6月初,随着投资者失去了等待的耐心,不再赌人民币会升值,这种计价预期下滑至不到1%。

这意味着中国可以声称此次采取的措施并非出于金融市场压力,也不会使投机者获利。此外,本月公布的数据显示,中国的CPI在一年半以来首次上破3%,为以更坚挺的货币来减缓价格上涨增强了说服力。

但这一汇率举措也带有一定的风险。中国的政策制订者一直将日本的先例引以为鉴,日本于1985年签订了《广场协议》(Plaza Accord),同意日圆大幅升值。尽管起因仍存有争议,但此后日本出现房地产泡沫,随之经济陷入长期萧条。中国许多人从中得出的教训是,无论对错,汇率快速波动会对国内企业造成重大伤害。

中国央行宣布这项政策时正面应答了这些担忧,明确表明人民币汇率改革将逐渐推进,因而国内企业有时间进行适当调整以保持竞争力。但这种逐渐推进汇改的方式不可能平息长期以来美国对中国货币政策的批评,并可能为中国政府继续带来政治问题。

北京清华-布鲁金斯公共政策研究中心(Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy)主任肖耿说,美国国会议员的预期与中国当局切实举措之间有很大差距。

但肖耿也说,坚持人民币汇革渐进不应掩盖汇改机制思路发生变化的重大意义。他说,经过几年的争论与研究,负责这一问题的人,包括高层政策制订者,已经清楚地意识到允许人民币中长期升值的必要性。

从根本上说,汇率浮动的决定表明中国领导人意识到目前这种严格的货币体制与中国规模巨大、发展迅速的经济不相适应。中国的国民收入在增长,长期来看,收入增长会推动商品及服务价格上调,也会推动汇率上调。

经济学家们说,如果政府抵制这种进程,保持汇率不动,结果会导致更高的通胀,并进而引发严重的社会与经济问题。而接受并管理这一进程,实施弹性汇率,中国政府应可为国民提供一个更好的经济前景。

担任中国央行货币政策委员会委员的经济学家李稻葵说,这标志着一个新时期的开始。

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