By Simon Johnson
According to official previews (i.e., the apparent contents of background briefings given to wire services), the economic topics are China’s concerns about the value of the dollar (i.e., their investments in the U.S.) and the amount of debt that the U.S. will issue this year.
This is absurd.
China decided to accumulate over $2trn worth of reserves, most of which they are presumed to hold in dollars. No one compelled, suggested, or was even particularly pleased by their massive current account surplus (peaked at 11% of GDP in 2007, but still projected at 9.5% of GDP for 2009). We can argue about whether this surplus - arguably the largest on modern record for a major country – was intentional or the result of various policy accidents.
Irrespective of underlying cause, any country that runs such a current account surplus is implicitly taking a great deal of currency risk – China was in effect deciding to take the biggest ever official long-dollar position. The idea that the US government should spend time reassuring them is somewhere between quaint and not good strategy.