The Economic Implications of the US China Relationship

As pundits continue to debate wether the US economy is emerging from recession, most are missing more important fundamental economic issues. Newsweek's recent article by Niall Ferguson, "Chimerica is Headed for Divorce", raises more relevant questions and serves as an interesting reflection on the consumer - producer relationship that has emerged between the US and China. Ferguson, the Harvard professor and author of The Ascent of Money , a book and PBS series, opines:

It ' s a bit like one of those marriages between a compulsive saver and a chronic spender. Such partnerships can work for a certain period of time, but eventually the penny-pincher gets disillusioned with the spendthrift. Every time Chinese officials express concern about U.S. fiscal or monetary policy, it reminds me of one of those domestic tiffs in which the saver says to the spender: "You maxed out on the credit cards once too often, honey."

Let's look at the numbers. China's holdings of U.S. Treasuries rose to $801.5 billion in May, an increase of 5 percent from $763.5 billion in April. Call it $40 billion a month. And let's imagine the Chinese do that every month through this fiscal year. That would be a credit line to the U.S. government of $480 billion. Given that the total deficit is forecast to be about $2 trillion, that means the Chinese may finance less than a quarter of -total federal-government borrowing—whereas a few years ago they were financing virtually the whole deficit.

Clearly the financing of US spending by the Chinese will be ending; its unsustainable and increasingly not in the best interest of the Chinese.  Furthermore, the possibility of the US garnering political will to tackle its fiscal indulgences is unrealistic. What are the implications? In the long run the rise and fall of empires follows the rise and fall of their economies. Watch Niall below describe some of the implications of these macro trends as we enter a new age of geopolitical considerations. No reserve currency last forever as this historian points out and the implications for declines in US standards of living among other important considerations are worth careful thought. Long run, interest rates will rise, purchasing power will decline and inflation will emerge to resolve the disequilibrium that has been existing for some time.