【英语财经】人民币估值之争不断 Undervalue/Overvalue: The Great Yuan Debate Continues

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2014-5-13 10:50

小艾摘要: When last China Real Time delved into the valuation of Chinese yuan, economist Arvind Subramanian of the Peterson Institute for International Economics came to a surprising conclusion: The yuan was no ...
Undervalue/Overvalue: The Great Yuan Debate Continues
When last China Real Time delved into the valuation of Chinese yuan, economist Arvind Subramanian of the Peterson Institute for International Economics came to a surprising conclusion: The yuan was no longer undervalued. China might be shedding its mercantilist ways, he wrote with a co-author, after analyzing new data on global pricing released by the World Bank.

Nowhere was that conclusion more controversial than in the elegant Massachusetts Avenue home of the Peterson Institute itself in Washington, D.C., where several other scholars have been arguing for years that the yuan is so undervalued that it represents an unfair subsidy for China's exporters. Fred Bergsten, founding director of the
institute and now a scholar there, has even urged the U.S. to sue China at the World Trade Organization over its currency policy. But the only president to take him up on the idea so far is the one in 'House of Cards.' (The first president; not the one played by Kevin Spacey.)

'Arvind's latest analysis is hopelessly simplistic,' Mr. Bergsten wrote to China Real Time. ' [His] empirics are also widely inconsistent,' he complained, saying that the World Bank numbers weren't really suitable for computing the yuan's valuation.

The World Bank had presented new data on what's known as purchasing power parity--how much a given service costs in different countries. PPP tend to make developing countries look richer because, say, the cost of computer repair is far cheaper in Shanghai than it would be in Seattle or Siena.

Far from backing down, Mr. Subramanian retorted, via email: 'Fred's pre-occupation (obsession?) with China makes him render a partial verdict,' and cited a number of economists who had used PPP to make currency valuations.

This isn't merely an academic debate. The U.S. Congress and China's trading partners look closely at Beijing's currency policy to see whether it's manipulating the yuan to give its traders an unfair edge--and they count on Peterson economists for analysis. Indeed, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is due in Beijing today, in part, to press China to let the yuan climb in value again after falling nearly 3% so far this year.

Several other economists at Peterson--perhaps the world's leading international economic think tank--joined in the e-mail fray, citing obscure economic theorems and common-sense observations. Joseph Gagnon noted that one indication that the yuan is still undervalued is that China keeps intervening to keep it from rising (or in recent months, to reduce the yuan's value).'The proof of disequilibrium is that China has continued to purchase large quantities of FX to hold down its currency,' Mr. Gagnon wrote.

To try to clear up the controversy, China Real Time asked the economists on the email train to give their own estimate of China's under/over valuation. As might be expected from the email exchange, they didn't share a single point of view. Peterson doesn't hire wallflowers.

Mr. Bergsten, Mr. Gagnon, Morris Goldstein and John Williamson -- all of whom have made currency estimates for years -- argued that the yuan is significantly undervalued.

'The RMB is obviously undervalued by a very large amount because China bought about $500 billion in 2013 to keep it from rising (and, as best we can tell, is intervening at a similar pace this year),' Mr. Bergsten wrote. 'This means they are buying about $2 billion every working day to keep the dollar's price up and the RMB's price down!'

His ally in the battle, Mr. Williamson, noted:'I regard the yuan as continuing to be undervalued because I think a sensible objective for China would be to target a gradual rundown of their reserves. (China) would need a substantial appreciation of the RMB to achieve this.'

As for Mr. Goldstein, he wrote in the email that the yuan has been undervalued, when accounting for inflation, 'since about 2003-2004 -- reaching a peak under-valuation in the neighborhood of 30-40 percent in 2007 (when China's global current-account surplus was about 10 percent of GDP and when the economy was much overheated). Since 2007, the degree of under-valuation has declined significantly but has not yet gone away completely.'

Mr. Subramanian stuck to his guns and his study, saying the yuan was fairly valued and that the PPP numbers are a valid way of estimating a currency's value. 'It provides a relatively objective benchmark for evaluating exchange rates,' he wrote.

William Cline makes what's closest to an official Peterson estimate of yuan valuation-- his estimates are published semi-annually by the think tank. His new estimates are expected out in the next few weeks, but he gave China Real Time a sneak preview:

'For China, it looks as if the estimate will be that the yuan is undervalued by about 3 percent compared' with what's known as its equilibrium rate. Undervalued, but not by a heck of a lot.

An outsider to the Peterson crew--OK, he's on the think tank's advisory board--Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff chimed in to offer a word of caution about any estimate.

'It is important to bear in mind that one can typically only estimate a broad band for the equilibrium exchange (say plus or minus 8 percent), so there is a high degree of residual uncertainty,' wrote Mr. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.

《中国实时报》(China Real Time)上次研究人民币估值问题时,彼得森国际经济研究所(Peterson Institute of International Economics)经济学家Arvind Subramanian得出一个令人意外的结论:人民币币值不再被低估。在分析了世界银行(World Bank)发布的最新全球物价数据后,他和另一位作者共同写到:中国可能正在摆脱重商主义经济模式。

而围绕这一结论最为激烈的争议就存在于彼得森国际经济研究所内部。这家研究所总部位于华盛顿的马萨诸赛大道上。这里的另外几位学者多年来一直辩称,人民币币值被低估,相当于对中国出口商提供了不公平的补贴。该研究所的创始人兼所长贝格斯腾(Fred Bergsten)现在也是一名学者,他甚至敦促美国向世界贸易组织(World Trade Organization, 简称WTO)就中国的外汇政策起诉中国。但迄今为止唯一采纳他建议的只有《纸牌屋》(House of Cards)里的那位总统(第一季中的总统,而非史派西(Kevin Spacey)饰演的总统)。




这不单单是一场学术争论。美国国会以及中国的其他贸易伙伴都在密切关注中国的外汇政策,看中国是否在操纵人民币汇率以便向本国贸易商提供不公平的优势,他们都会参考彼得森国际经济研究所经济学家的分析。实际上,美国财政部长雅各布•卢(Jacob Lew)周二将访问北京,一定程度上是为了向中国施压,要求其允许人民币再度升值。今年迄今为止,人民币已经下跌了近3%。

彼得森国际经济研究所(或许是全球领先的国际经济智库)的其他多位经济学家也加入了电子邮件争辩,纷纷引述晦涩的经济理论和常识性观察。加尼翁(Joseph Gagnon)指出,显示人民币仍被低估的一个迹象是,中国继续干预外汇市场阻止人民币升值(近几个月还推动人民币贬值)。他写道,汇率失衡的证据之一就是中国继续买入大量外汇以压低人民币汇率。


贝格斯滕、加尼翁、戈尔茨坦(Morris Goldstein)和威廉森(John Williamson)进行汇率估算已有多年,他们均认为人民币被大幅低估。



至于戈尔茨坦,他在邮件中表示,考虑到通胀因素,人民币自2003-2004年以来一直被低估,2007年被低估程度高达约30%-40% (当时中国的经常项目盈余约相当于GDP的10%,而且经济严重过热)。他还说,自2007年以来,低估程度明显下降,但并没有完全消除。


克莱因(William Cline)的观点最接近于彼得森国际经济研究所对人民币估值的官方看法。他的估计由该智库每半年发布一次,其最新报告将在未来几周发布,不过他让“中国实时报”栏目抢先了解了一下内容:


哈佛大学经济学家、国际货币基金组织(International Monetary Fund,简称IMF)前首席经济学家罗戈夫(Kenneth Rogoff)不是彼得森国际经济研究所的一员。


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