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This article also appeared in the Business Standard.
Back in 1971, the then US Treasury Secretary, John Connolly, told his European counterparts that the dollar was “our currency, but your problem”. Today, it seems that China has returned that favour. Its currency has become a problem for the US. Not just the politics but the intellectual climate has become charged with even Nobel laureate Paul Krugman urging strong trade action against China. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has a damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don’t choice facing him in mid-April, when he is required by law to pronounce on whether China is a currency manipulator.
My colleage Arvind Subramanian published an intriguing Op-Ed in the Financial Times this week. In “The Weak Renminbi is Not Just America’s Problem” Arvind notes that the undervalued Chinese currency is a global problem that requires a multilateral response. He then argues persuasively that neither the United States nor the IMF can be expected to persuade China to revalue its currency. Instead, he says, such action should come from the WTO.
Twenty years ago this month I left China under less than ideal circumstances: I was one of a handful of reporters expelled during a crackdown on the incipient student democracy movement. After a dozen years of close involvement with China, first as a student, then as a tour guide, and finally as a journalist, I was suddenly cut off from the country, unable to return.