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15 Feb, 2016

Chinese Commentary: Blame game won’t help stabilize global markets

NEW YORK, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) — The global financial markets have suffered sharp declines lately, with stocks plunging across Europe, Japan and the United States last week.

Some players once again tried to link the global rout with China. However, such claims are unwarranted and playing the blame game in the face of challenges is useless.

U.S. Fed Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday that uncertainties from China, such as the economic growth slowdown and the yuan depreciation, have “led to increased volatility in global financial markets and … exacerbated concerns about the outlook for global growth.”

But as the Chinese equity market was closed for a week during the Chinese New Year, there has been no fresh news from China. Neither did China release any economic data or announce new policies that could move the markets during this period.

Some of the media outlets in the United States carried reports this week on what they described as a “capital flight” from China, despite that the yuan has stabilized against the U.S. dollar recently.

“Once again, financial markets are painting an oversimplified picture of a very complex story,” said Stephen Roach, senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute of Global Affairs.

Experts have attributed recent market jitters to factors such as the futility of the negative interest rates adopted by Japan, crude oil prices hitting 12-year lows, concerns over the financial strength of European banks and uncertainties over the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary policy.

Since the Fed decided to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade last December, worries have been mounting about whether global economic growth has been sound enough to withstand the impact of the initiation of a cycle of monetary tightening.

“Central banks are starting to wean markets from the artificial support of years of unprecedented quantitative easing … that could prove far more problematic than another China scare,” Roach said.

After years of massive monetary easing, some adjustments are inevitable, so “everyone seems to want to find someone else to put the blame on,” China’s central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan said in a recent interview with Chinese magazine Caixin.

Zhou said that there is no basis for the continual depreciation of the yuan and that “China would not let the market sentiment be dominated by these speculative forces.”

Meanwhile, it is important to differentiate between capital outflow and capital flight. The capital outflow may not be capital flight.

The market has had unrealistic expectation for the stability of the yuan as a result of its being “too stable over the years,” Zhou said.

In terms of the economy, China has been a vital stabilizing power, too. In 2008, when the financial crisis spread from the United States and Europe to the emerging economies, China not only kept its currency from depreciating, but also announced a 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package.

After decades of double-digit growth, China has embarked on a new stage with a relatively slower growth rate of around 7 percent. Experts believe this is a reflection of the structural shift in China from export- and investment-driven growth to more balanced consumption-driven growth.

Such reforms are set to benefit the world once they are completed. China has been an important source of global economic growth, contributing more than a quarter of global economic growth last year.

Difficult external factors have added to the challenges facing China as it tries to push through structural reforms.

Central banks and market regulators of all major economies, especially the developed economies, should focus on boosting investor confidence and supporting growth. They should also be more prudent in introducing major monetary policy changes with potential spillover effects.