Paul Krugman: Taking On China

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman writes a column in support of the recent bill passed by the House of Representatives calling for stronger action against China for not raising the value of its currency:

Diplomacy on China’s currency has gone nowhere, and will continue going nowhere unless backed by the threat of retaliation. The hype about trade war is unjustified — and, anyway, there are worse things than trade conflict. In a time of mass unemployment, made worse by China’s predatory currency policy, the possibility of a few new tariffs should be way down on our list of worries.

Let’s step back and look at the current state of the world.

Major advanced economies are still reeling from the effects of a burst housing bubble and the financial crisis that followed. Consumer spending is depressed, and firms see no point in expanding when they aren’t selling enough to use the capacity they have. The recession may be officially over, but unemployment is extremely high and shows no sign of returning to normal levels.

The situation is quite different, however, in emerging economies. These economies have weathered the economic storm, they are fighting inflation rather than deflation, and they offer abundant investment opportunities. Naturally, capital from wealthier but depressed nations is flowing in their direction. And emerging nations could and should play an important role in helping the world economy as a whole pull out of its slump.

But China, the largest of these emerging economies, isn’t allowing this natural process to unfold. Restrictions on foreign investment limit the flow of private funds into China; meanwhile, the Chinese government is keeping the value of its currency, the renminbi, artificially low by buying huge amounts of foreign currency, in effect subsidizing its exports. And these subsidized exports are hurting employment in the rest of the world.

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