When U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson arrives in Beijing on Wednesday, the Chinese currency might coincidental break through the symbolic seven to the dollar level. As Richard McGregor writes in the FT “the currency has become a litmus test of Chinese responsiveness to U.S. complaints on trade.”
Yet what really is driving the recent strengthening of the yuan — it has risen more than 15% so far this year, more than in the previous two and a half years — is domestic inflation not Washington’s grumbling. Beijing is finding it increasingly difficult to sterilize the economy against the inflationary impact of the foreign exchange reserves piling up because of the trade surplus.
With inflation running at a 12 year high, that has become a more important policy imperative than supporting exporters and inefficient state owned enterprises that are in no fit state to compete against imports. Plus it gets it a few bonus brownie points in Washington — if not Brussels or Tokyo.