“Although lobbyists for Chinese exporters continue to vocally oppose a more valuable yuan, many influential economists in China have publicly advocated a change, arguing that a more flexible currency would help China deal with the rising domestic prices fueled by its rapid growth.”
China Talks Fuel U.S. Hopes on Yuan
By Andrew Batson, Jason Dean and Deborah Solomon
9 April 2010
BEIJING — U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan produced no breakthroughs on China’s currency policy, but added to optimism in Washington that Beijing may be getting closer to allowing the yuan to appreciate amid intensifying pressure to make a move.
Mr. Geithner met with Mr. Wang on Thursday for more than an hour in the VIP terminal of Beijing Capital International Airport, before departing for the U.S. The meeting produced brief, almost identically worded statements from both governments that the two sides had exchanged views on bilateral ties and the global economic situation, and worked on preparations for their annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue to be held in Beijing late next month. The statements didn’t mention the currency.
A U.S. official said the yuan was discussed, however. The official said the meeting was "constructive" and that the U.S. is encouraged that China will take action on its exchange rate, but that the talks produced no new commitment from China. The person said U.S. officials don’t necessarily expect Beijing to make a specific promise to Washington, given the Chinese leadership’s concern about being perceived to bow to U.S. pressure on the currency issue.
Economists and officials who deal with the Chinese government say they believe the leadership is increasingly close to making a decision to end the de facto peg to the U.S. dollar that it adopted for the yuan in July 2008 amid the worsening global economic crisis.
Critics in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere argue that the policy suppresses the yuan’s value, making Chinese exports artificially inexpensive and harming exporters from other countries.
Mr. Geithner’s hastily arranged visit, announced just a day earlier, has added to expectations of a move, which has been widely forecast for months and is expected by many in the foreign-exchange market.
Although lobbyists for Chinese exporters continue to vocally oppose a more valuable yuan, many influential economists in China have publicly advocated a change, arguing that a more flexible currency would help China deal with the rising domestic prices fueled by its rapid growth.
Mr. Geithner also raised other issues with Mr. Wang, including the concerns of some American companies doing business in China that they face discriminatory government policies, a U.S. official said. Foreign businesses have complained in recent months about tougher Chinese regulation and intensifying domestic competition in China.
China’s central bank Thursday fixed the reference rate known as the central-parity rate at 6.8259 yuan for each dollar — unchanged from Wednesday, which represented the strongest yuan value against the U.S. currency in 10 months.
Late Thursday, on the over-the-counter market, the Chinese currency strengthened to a near six-month high against the U.S. dollar at 6.8245 yuan. Thursday’s levels represented only tiny percentage changes, however, and it isn’t clear they represent any official shift in thinking.
On Thursday, Xia Bin, a prominent Chinese scholar recently named an outside adviser to the People’s Bank of China, told reporters in Shanghai that the current de facto peg is no longer necessary because "the worst of the crisis is over."
But he argued that a large move in the currency’s value would be unwise, and suggested a return to the pre-crisis policy of a somewhat flexible but closely managed exchange rate.
Mr. Xia’s comments don’t necessarily reflect those of senior government officials, but are in line with the analysis that central bank Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan made publicly in March.
Esther Fung in Shanghai contributed to this article.