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Death By China: Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to Action Excerpt from Death By China: Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to Action

by Peter Navarro and Greg Autry

Death By Currency Manipulation: Crouching Tiger, Nuking Dragon

American workers can compete dollar for dollar against Chinese workers. They just can't compete dollars against manipulated yuans.
-- Eric Lotke, Campaign for America's Future

If money is the root of all evil, then China's manipulation of its currency, the yuan, is the tap root of everything wrong with the U.S. -China trade relationship. For more than a decade, chronic U.S. trade deficits with China have dramatically slowed America's economic growth rate and spiked our unemployment rate. Yet it would be impossible for China to keep sucking the lifeblood out of the American economy without its fangs of currency manipulation.

China manipulates its currency by artificially "pegging" the Chinese yuan to the U.S. dollar at a grossly undervalued fixed exchange rate. To understand why this debilitates the American economy, it is critical to understand that any nation's economy is driven by only four factors: consumption, business investment, government spending, and "net exports."

This last growth driver -- net exports -- is the most important for our discussion of Chinese currency manipulation because it measures the difference between how much we export to the world minus how much we import. And here is a critical observation that underscores the essential role that net exports
play in our economy:

When America runs a chronic trade deficit with China, this shaves critical points off our economic growth rate. This slower growth rate, in turn, thereby reduces the number of jobs America creates.

Of course, as the American economy suffers from slow growth and high unemployment, China enjoys just the opposite effect. The Dragon booms while America goes bust.

Another Day Older, Deeper in Debt, and Slower in Growth

So just how big is our trade deficit with China? Just how many jobs has our "Chinese import dependence" cost us? And why is currency manipulation a principal reason the United States is unable to significantly reduce its trade deficit? Only by knowing the answers to these questions can we escape from China's currency manipulation trap. Let's start then with the size of the U.S. trade deficit.

In terms of absolute size, America imports almost $1 billion a day more than it exports from China every business day of the year. That's not a typo; it's billion not million.

In terms of relative size, the U.S. -China trade deficit is equally astonishing. China accounts for almost half of our annual trade deficit in goods and fully 75% when petroleum imports are removed from the calculation. Here is one logical policy inference from these statistics:

If America wants to reduce its overall trade deficit to increase its growth rate and create more jobs, the best place to start is with currency reform with China!

As for the actual impact our Chinese import dependence has had on America's growth and unemployment rates, this, too, is mind-boggling. Over the past decade, our trade deficit with China has typically shaved off close to half a point of GDP growth a year. While that might not seem like a large sum, it translates into a cumulative impact of millions of jobs that the American economy failed to create. If we had those jobs right now plus the millions more manufacturing jobs that China's unfair trade practices have destroyed outright, we wouldn't be seeing unemployment lines wrapping around government buildings, fields of padlocked houses under foreclosure, and America's empty factories pushing up weeds. Instead, we'd be on the sunny side of Easy Street.

As a side note, these stunning statistics always remind us of the story about Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber. When they asked Sutton why he robbed banks, he famously replied, "Because that's where the money is." Just as banks are where the money is, China's currency manipulation is where our best hope of reducing our trade deficit -- and reclaiming robust economic growth -- lies.

Hard Times for America from China's Hard Dollar Peg

So, just how does China manipulate its currency? It does so by effectively "hardpegging" its yuan to the dollar at a grossly undervalued fixed exchange rate: around six yuan to the dollar. This ultra-cheap yuan, in turn, provides a lucrative subsidy for Chinese exporters while levying a hefty tax on U.S. exports to China. The result of this currency manipulation, working in league with the other Chinese unfair trade practices we have discussed, has been the chronic U.S. trade deficits we have just weighed and measured.

Now here's the key currency manipulation point: America's trade imbalance with China could never persist in a world of free trade where China allowed its currency to float freely alongside other floating currencies around the world like the euro, Japanese yen, Swiss Franc, Brazilian real, Indian rupee, and U.S. dollar.

In a world of free trade characterized by completely floating exchange rates, the U.S. -China trade imbalance could never persist because as the U.S. trade deficit rose, the dollar would fall relative to the yuan. As the dollar fell, U.S. exports to China would rise, Chinese imports would fall, and trade would come back into balance. However, by pegging the yuan to the dollar, a mercantilist China subverts this free trade adjustment process -- even as it undermines a global free trade framework based on the promise of mutual gain.

The above is an excerpt from the book Death by China: Confronting the Dragon -- A Global Call to Action by Peter Navarro and Greg Autry. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2011 Peter Navarro and Greg Autry, authors of Death by China: Confronting the Dragon -- A Global Call to Action