Thursday, February 23, 2012

Open letter from China to Europe...Velvet glove, iron fist

Dear Sirs/Madams,

I know you are in trouble and want China to help. I have heard your repeated calls in the media for our leaders to bail you out by buying the debt of European governments. I want to assure you your entreaties have not been in vain.

Last week our premier pledged that China will "get more deeply involved" in resolving your debt crisis. Our central bank governor tried to buoy up market confidence in the euro by vowing to continue holding your sovereign debts. Such comments came even as the international rating agencies - Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings - cut their ratings for your nations because of the weakening prospects for an overhaul in Europe.

We want you to know that we are your friend in your time of need.

In fact, the ever-expanding trade ties between China and the European Union have brought us closer together. China is now the EU's top trade partner, and vice versa. So a collapse of the eurozone would also hurt China's interests. The International Monetary Fund has warned that a deepening EU debt crisis could slash China's economic growth in half this year. So we are both in the same boat.

But that does not mean you should take China's help lightly.

Yes, China has the money. Its stockpile of foreign currency, valued at nearly $3.2 trillion, is the world's largest. Yet this has been amassed over three decades of trade and built up from razor-thin profits. We are at the low end of the global value chain and we have to sweat and toil for every penny we earn. China has to export more than 800 million shirts to buy one Airbus A380.

To be frank, some of us don't understand why the rich are holding out their hands to the poor and asking for money. For common Chinese people, the wealth of your nations is unimaginable. The average monthly income of your citizens - at around $4,000 in countries such as Germany and Belgium - is 12 times that of the average Chinese citizen. The Chinese workers in the factories in coastal cities have to work 12 hours or longer each day with basically no days off, while workers in France enjoy two months of paid vacation, national holidays and regional festivals each year. If we can save 50 percent of our earnings, surely it should be possible for you to save just 1 percent of yours.

The cause of the crisis is simple: You have spent more than you earned. If we are injecting our hard-earned money into Greek, Irish, Portuguese or Italian government bonds, you should show the political resolve to clean up your own backyard. You have to stop bickering and dragging your feet over the urgently needed austerity measures. It is time to roll up your sleeves and get the job done.

And while I know that any investment has risks, I hope you will try to ensure our money does not evaporate. We have already been snared in a "dollar trap". You are not legally obliged to ensure our investment safety. But surely you don't want to be seen as luring China into a "euro trap". We have suffered huge losses from holding US Treasury bonds because of the unrestrained printing of the greenback. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out, the dollar depreciation will result in losses of up to 20-30 percent of China's investment in US bonds. That's the reason we have sought to divert our investment in a basket of currencies other than the US dollar.

Perhaps now that China has shown its goodwill toward you with its chivalrous purchasing of European debts, we can expect some demonstration of goodwill from you. I think you should recognize China's market economy status as soon as possible. After all it is of no substantial significance. China is going to get the status anyway in a few years' time according to the World Trade Organization rules. Good relations are all about reciprocity.

I hope everything goes fine with you.

Yours Sincerely

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

3 comments:

JR said...

Interesting article. Even though one might question the veracity of a writer for China Daily, Chinese workers certainly have nowhere near the European standard of living.

The writer states that the average Chinese "income" is lower than the Europeans' by a factor of 12. This website suggests it might be closer to 3.5. But it's hard to know whether the Chinese peasantry have been included and I'm sure their "salaries" would skew that number.

Halfwise said...

I like the point about the savings rates, poor country vs rich country. If there was a scale that measured sense of entitlement we would probably be looking at one extreme in Europe and the other extreme in China.

In economics, just because something is inevitable there is no guarantee that it is imminent. So it is not as if the whole system will fail by lunchtime. But I can't shake the feeling that the wheels are coming off our comfy practice of living beyond our means.

JR said...

"...sense of entitlement ... one extreme in Europe and the other extreme in China."

That sounds right, and Canada not too distant from Europe.