It doesn't take much to spark corrections in vulnerable economies and markets, and big shocks to highly vulnerable systems are a recipe for crisis. That's why the vulnerability of today's global economy – reflected in real economies, financial asset prices, and misguided monetary policy – needs to be taken seriously.
Trade truce or not, a protracted Cold War-like conflict between the United States and China has already begun. That should worry the US, which, unlike China, is devoid of a long-term strategic framework.
Washington has been loose with facts, analysis, and conclusions about China, and the American public has been far too gullible in its acceptance of this false narrative. The point is not to deny China’s role in promoting economic tensions, but to stress the need for objectivity and honesty in assigning blame – especially with so much at stake in the current conflict.
The US believes that with Chinese growth slowing, China's leaders are desperate for a deal to end the bilateral trade war, regardless of when the current 90-day truce actually ends. But the two economies’ longer-term fundamentals compel a very different verdict about which side has the upper hand.
At the recent World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, participants made the same mistake they always do: extrapolating from the recent past rather than looking genuinely into the future. Three key changes would enable the event to fulfill its considerable potential.
The global trade cycle is facing major stress in 2019, downward revisions have just begun, and the risk of a major slowdown in world GDP growth cannot be minimized. In a still tightly connected world, no major economy will be an oasis.
A decade after the US Federal Reserve launched one of the boldest policy experiments in the modern history of central banking, economists and policymakers are still debating its implications. To prepare for future crises, five key lessons should be kept in mind.
Thanks to trade tariffs on Chinese imports, China-centric global value chains will no longer offset pressure on prices stemming from a tight US labor market. That could mean that the Federal Reserve must significantly exceed the so-called comfort zone of interest-rate normalization that financial markets are currently discounting.
Whatever the source, the conflict phase of codependency is now at hand. China is changing, or at least attempting to do so, while America remains stuck in the time-worn mindset of a deficit saver with massive multilateral trade deficits and the need to draw freely on global surplus saving to support economic growth.
Are independent central banks willing to force society to sacrifice growth in order to preserve financial stability? That is the fundamental question that must be answered after a decade of quantitative easing.
The May 19 deal between the US and China seems to have reduced tensions between the two countries. But, given the global nature of America's trade deficit, any effort to impose a solution focusing on one country will likely backfire.
The US Trade Representative appears to have made an ironclad case against China in the so-called Section 301 report issued on March 22. But the report – now widely viewed as evidence justifying the Trump administration's recent tariffs and other punitive measures against China – is wide of the mark in several key areas.
The removal of presidential term limits in China sent shock waves around the world. But the real issues that should be confronted – not just in China, but also in the US – concern the quality of a country's leadership.
The recent correction in the US stock market is now being characterized as a fleeting aberration – a volatility shock – in what is still deemed to be a very accommodating investment climate. In fact, for a US economy that has a razor-thin cushion of saving, dependence on rising asset prices has never been more obvious.
Notwithstanding all the self-congratulatory flourishes in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s political report to the 19th National Congress, there is good reason to believe that the Chinese economy is only in the early stages of its long-heralded structural transformation. To reach its goal, China will have to resolve three contradictions.
A decade after the onset of the global financial crisis, it seems more than appropriate for central bankers to move the levers of policy off their emergency settings. A world in recovery – no matter how anemic it may be – does not require a crisis-like approach to monetary policy.
On August 14, President Donald Trump instructed the US Trade Representative to commence investigating Chinese infringement of intellectual property rights. Whatever the merit of such allegations, Chinese retaliation against US trade sanctions would almost certainly cause far more economic damage.
International economic forecasters find it difficult to resist superimposing the experience of crisis-prone developed economies onto China. But, once again, the Chinese economy has defied the pessimists: after decelerating for six consecutive years, real GDP growth appears to be inching up in 2017.
Though Japan’s experience since the early 1990s provides many lessons, policymakers in the rest of the world have failed miserably in heeding them. Time and again, major central banks – especially the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of England – have been quick to follow the Bank of Japan's disastrous lead.
Once an adapter to globalization, China is increasingly a driver of it. The Next China is becoming a Global China, upping the ante on its connection to an increasingly integrated world – and creating a new set of risks and opportunities.
Slowly but surely, a bruised and battered global economy now appears to be shaking off its deep post-2008 malaise. But this hardly means that the world is returning to normal; on the contrary, the global growth dynamic has undergone an extraordinary transformation during the last nine years.
Another growth scare has come and gone for the Chinese economy, with export growth up strongly in the first two months of 2017. For the country's policymakers, the challenge now is to stay focused on executing their domestic strategy, rather than seeking to replace the US at the center of the global system.
In an ideal world, it would be nice to streamline, simplify, and even reduce tax and regulatory burdens on US businesses. But business is not the weak link in the US economic chain; workers are, because economic returns have shifted dramatically from the providers of labor to the owners of capital over the past 25 years.
The Trump administration's China-bashing strategy is based on the mistaken belief that a newly muscular US has all the leverage in dealing with its presumed adversary, and that any Chinese response is hardly worth considering. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Donald Trump's use of foreign trade as a lightning rod in his presidential campaign is not an uncommon tactic for candidates at either end of the political spectrum. What is unusual is that he has not moderated his anti-trade tone since winning, despite the potentially disastrous consequences for the US and the world.
The US president-elect's economic strategy is severely flawed: its protectionist bias collides head-on with the imperative of increased US reliance on foreign saving and trade deficits in order to sustain economic growth. A saving-short, protectionist America is a country on a path to nowhere.
With its debt overhangs and property bubbles, its zombie state-owned enterprises and struggling banks, China is increasingly portrayed as the next disaster in a crisis-prone global economy. If the China bears are right, no country would be spared.