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Leader_Capital controls may be China’s only real option

  • Author:naky
  • Source:www.diecastingpartsupplier.com
  • Release on:2016-01-27
Chinese officials readily admit that communication has not been their strong point when it comes to dealing with international investors. The question of how China manages the renminbi is critical for global trade and commodity prices; the market turmoil following recent changes in the currency regime was exacerbated by Beijing’s failure to explain its intentions. Policymakers have now made it explicit that they have no wish to engineer a big devaluation. However, they are much less forthcoming about how they plan to reconcile a desire for currency stability with the realities of capital flight and a slowing economy.

Greater clarity would be a help to investors, who struggle at present to interpret cryptic press releases and gauge the extent of central bank intervention in markets. However, improving communication by the People’s Bank of China is not an easy matter. In a system where even the central bank governor cannot speak with complete authority — given political constraints and resistance to its reformist policies in other parts of the Chinese state — it would constitute a revolution.

Moreover, central bank guidance is most effective when the policy is clear and it is relatively straightforward to work out how it will evolve in response to changes in economic data. At present, the reality in China is that the PBoC has no clear course of action and wants to leave itself flexibility.

Given this continuing pressure, Chinese policymakers have few attractive options. Even with a $3.3tn stockpile, they cannot continue to run down foreign exchange reserves indefinitely, nor would the government countenance it. Raising interest rates to make domestic investments more attractive would be unlikely to slow outflows while worsening the already painful slowdown in the real economy. Letting the renminbi find its own level — while intellectually coherent — risks enormous market dislocation in the short term and would be a huge shock to the global economy. Few policymakers either within China or outside are likely to contemplate such a course.

This goes against the grain of recent liberalising measures, which last year helped China win the renminbi’s inclusion in the International Monetary Fund’s special drawing rights basket, alongside traditional reserve currencies. However, the IMF has become far more willing to accept the case for temporary capital controls since quantitative easing sparked huge flows of hot money into emerging markets.

Capital controls are not a long-term solution but, at present, they are the correct step for Beijing to take in a very difficult situation. However, they will only work if China uses the breathing space to articulate a clear policy to rebalance its economy and liberalise its currency in the longer term — a process that will take many years.