By now, everyone who is interested would know that China has been manufacturing everything that the U.S. and the rest of the world needs. For this effort, China has made a lot of money. This surplus is so huge that no bank can manage it. So, China put its "savings" into U.S. Treasury Bills, which are basically IOUs issued by a sovereign nation. Over the past many decades, U.S. Treasury Bills have been regarded as the best sovereign IOU anyone can get...until now?
There are many voices on this matter. The ones in the mainstream will tell us that economic recovery is just around the corner; that the U.S. economic malaise has bottomed out.
Worst of all, is the current faddish use of a horrible gardening metaphor, that green shoots are sprouting. I really can't stand that expression. It means nothing. It's nebulous and, therefore, entitles the maker of the statement to slip through any number of excuses when the forecast is found wanting...Oh! I meant the green shoots that are sprouting in the other economic sector, not this one. I think it's major BS!
The people who know are precise. The people who don't know just waffle. The usage of the expression green shoots is a reminder of the great Peter Seller's 1979 movie, Being There in that a simple-minded guy is feted for discussing gardening which was mistaken to be great pearls of economic and political insight. Needless to say that movie was political satire and great social commentary.
And, here we are. Paul Samuelson is concerned about the risk that China, which holds many American IOUs, will start balking at the myth that U.S. economic recovery is around the corner. That is when China may start selling down its American IOUs, an event that will trigger off a serious economic situation. Okay, enough build-up. Read Samuelson directly here. Or, read what I have extracted below. And, for the uninitiated, this is who Samuelson is, a mainstream economist, an economics textbook writer, no less, as anyone who has pretensions to have read economics should know.
China is the new important factor.
Up until now, China has been willing to hold her recycled resources in the form of lowest-yield U.S. Treasury bills. That's still good news. But almost certainly it cannot and will not last.
Some day -- maybe even soon -- China will turn pessimistic on the U.S. dollar.
That means lethal troubles for the future U.S. economy.
When a disorderly run against the dollar occurs, I believe a truly global financial panic is to be feared. China, Japan and Korea now hold dollars not because they think dollars will stay safe.
Why then? They do this primarily because that is a way that can prolong their export-led growth.
I am not alone in this paranoid future balance-of-payment fear.
Warren Buffett, for one, has turned protectionist. Alas, protectionism may well soon become more maligned.
President Obama struggles to support free trade. But as a canny centrist president, he will be very pressed to compromise.
And he will be under new chronic pressures. His experts should right now be making plans for America to become subordinate to China where world economic leadership is concerned.
The Obama team is a good one.
But will they act prudently to adjust to America's becoming the secondary global society?
In the chess game of geopolitics between now and 2050, much stormy weather will take place. Now is the time to prepare for what the future will likely be.
I should tip my hat to Mankiw's blog for having alerted me to Samuelson's views.