Source: The Mises Institute, by Alasdair Macleod
If nothing else, the Chinese have a sense of history and destiny. They have had a glorious past, stretching back millennia, and once controlled most of the Asian heartland in the days of Genghis and Kublai Khan. But even then, China was essentially inward-looking, protecting her own cultural values. Trade with Europeans in the centuries following Marco Polo’s visit was mostly at the behest of European travelers, not the Chinese. She exported her art and culture to visitors, and did not import European values.
This was a mistake, implicitly recognized by China’s current leadership. This time, China has embraced Western thinking and technology to further her own progress. The development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in recent years is the platform for China in partnership with Russia to embrace the Asian continent through peaceful trade, improving the lives of all the citizens of the many nations who are and will become members. The SCO promises a revolution in the wealth and living standards of over 40% of the world’s population, and associated benefits for its supplier-nations on the other continents.
China’s approach is fundamentally different from that of America, which under President Trump appears to be envious of the success of non-Americans producing goods and services for the American consumer. Autarkic America has a GDP of $19 trillion. Eventually, China will have free trade agreements with the rest of the world, excluding for now the EU. On a purchasing power parity basis, this is a market with a GDP of about $70 trillion, out of a world total of about $125 trillion.
Already, China dominates world trade. Her own economy is already significantly larger than that of the US on the purchasing power parity (PPP) estimates. While being the largest consumer of raw materials, China also exports more finished goods by value than any other country. As the Asian powerhouse, she has lifted the economies of all the countries on the western side of the Pacific Ocean, which including her own between them have a GDP of $50 trillion. Her exports into Asia now exceed her exports to the US. Yet despite this dominance, most of China’s trade is conducted in US dollars, something China is bound to change, if she is to contain external economic risk and replace America as the dominant global empire. Both objectives can only be achieved by China replacing the dollar as a medium of exchange.
Why Gold Is Central to China’s Future Trade-Settlement Policy
China’s challenge is the yuan as a purely fiat currency will take decades to replace the dollar, possibly never. And that assumes that China follows more stable monetary policies than the US. This has not been the case since the Lehman crisis, with China’s M2 broad money quantity expanding rapidly, accounting for much of the world’s monetary growth in recent years. The rate of monetary expansion is criticized as a dangerous credit bubble by western analysts, who are quick to condone monetary expansion in their own developed nations, but turn into hard-core monetarist critics over China. No, China will never replace the dollar with her own currency without a golden guarantee.
Therefore, China needs to deploy gold to displace the dollar. This might be done in one of two ways, one encouraging markets to evolve away from dollars toward gold, or alternatively by the state forcing the pace.
China provides the facility to convert yuan into physical gold in the Shanghai market through the Shanghai Futures Exchange. This gives an exporter of raw materials to China a sound-money option instead of being paid only in yuan or dollars. It does not require China to use state-owned gold, the physical gold being sourced through the market. In time, liquidity in the yuan futures contracts should improve, and Shanghai is already the largest physical gold market. Note that only last month it was announced that Russia’s central bank has opened an office in Beijing, and is tasked with resolving the technical aspects of gold deliveries from Russia into China. The importance of the Shanghai Gold Exchange will increase further through this link to Moscow. Using the Chinese market for physical gold delivery over time should impart some stability to the yuan relative to the dollar, particularly if American banks trading on Comex continue to discourage taking delivery of physical bullion.
That might take for ever. Alternatively, China could announce plans to make her currency convertible into gold at a fixed rate, but it would have to be at a far higher exchange rate than the current CNY8,700 to the ounce. If this course is followed, US Treasuries are bound to be displaced as the zero-risk bond standard, potentially creating chaos in western financial markets. China would also need to reveal her true holdings of gold bullion, transferring them into the currency reserves account, to give the foreign exchanges confidence over the scale of gold backing for the yuan.
So far, China’s policy has been to pursue the least disruptive route, preferring not to dislocate global trade, partly because she needs to co-exist with the rest of the world politically, and partly because it would affect her own trade adversely. It has also been very convenient to be able to direct the Chinese economy through the expansion of bank credit. The least disruptive route is still the default assumption.
Read More Here: China’s Plan to Subvert the Global Dollar Standard | Mises Wire