The simplest way to end the imbalances in the world’s economy is also sadly perhaps the most likely: for the Chinese to stop buying U.S. debt.
This is not going to happen anytime soon, for one thing deleveraging in the U.S. will for a time make U.S. Treasuries look good value, but a buyer’s strike is a heck of a lot more likely than the orchestrated rebalancing the U.S. will push at this week’s G-20 meeting of leading nations.
The U.S. plans to advance a plan at the Pittsburgh summit to fundamentally change the balance of the global economy, which over the past 15 years or so has been characterized by over-borrowing and consumption in the West provided and financed by savers and workers in Asia.
That state of play kept going, as is the way of these things, until it stopped, or rather until one of its wheels fell off. It wasn’t that Asians stopped saving or buying U.S. debt but that speculators, usually in Europe, stopped buying securities, often minted in London, which were being created to front run the flow of capital from Asia to the west.
That popped the asset price bubble and the flow of finance to consumers in the U.S. who, with much gnashing of teeth, began to save again and consume more guardedly.