The USA has complained for a long time now that the Chinese currency is undervalued. This makes it hard for American domestic firms to compete with cheap Chinese imports and for US exporters to sell to China. This was a major talking point at the G20 conference in Korea in November 2010: see Seoul traders and the following clip from Reuters: Obama pressures China at G20.
So is the yuan undervalued and, if so, has there been any appreciation to reduce the degree of undervaluation? In 2005, the yuan was pegged at $0.12 (or $1 = ¥8.28). In July 2005 the peg was relaxed and the yuan has appreciated. By mid-December 2010, the yuan was trading at $0.15 (or $1 = ¥6.66) – a 25% appreciation since 2005. In real terms the appreciation has been greater. Chinese inflation is above US inflation. Latest figures for Chinese inflation show consumer prices rising by an annual rate of 5.1%. This compares with 1.2% in the USA. This makes the real appreciation greater.
But despite this appreciation, the USA maintains that the Chinese currency is still considerably undervalued. Estimates for this undervaluation are around 40%. In its latest ‘Big Mac Index’, The Economist calculates this undervaluation at 41.2%. Links to the relevant data are given below. Read the articles and then use the data to answer the questions.
China’s soaring inflation could hit UK shoppers The Telegraph, Richard Tyler (11/12/10)
China says November inflation rises to 5.1 percent Bloomberg, Cara Anna (11/12/10)
Jump in China inflation keeps focus on tightening Reuters, Aileen Wang and Simon Rabinovitch (11/12/10)
China inflation rise fastest since July 2008, exceeds market forecast The Australian, Aaron Back (11/12/10)
China’s top economic planner says December CPI likely below 5% Xinhuanet (11/12/10)
Yuan rises vs dollar after strong trade data The Economic Times of India (11/12/10)
Who wins if Yuan is significantly revalued? International Business Times (12/12/10)
Currency war reveals growing global fissures AsiaOne (11/12/10)
How China’s Inflation Policy Will Help the Yuan / Dollar Exchange Rate Seeking Alpha, Ed Dolan (29/11/10)
Monthly Data Chinese National Bureau of Statistics
US Inflation Rate in Percent for Jan 2000-Present InflationData.com
BIS effective exchange rate indices Bank for International Settlements
Spot Exchange Rates Bank of England
IMF World Economic Ourlook Data Find The Best
Economic Data freely available online The Economics Network
The Big Mac Index The Economist
- Using Bank for International Settlements data above (broad indices), plot the nominal and real exchange rate indices for the US dollar and the yuan from 2005 to the present day. How much have (a) the nominal and (b) the real yuan exchange rate indices appreciated against the dollar exchange rate indices? (Note: you can use the Excel data to plot all four series on the same diagram.)
- Why has the Chinese rate of inflation risen?
- How are the anti-inflationary policies being considered by the Chinese authorities likely to impact on (a) the yuan exchange rate (b) the Chinese current account?
- In what ways do the Chinese authorities intervene in the foreign exchange market?
- What are the implications of the People’s Bank of China increasing the amount of yuan that can be traded on currency markets and increasing the amount of yuan-denominated debt?
- What are meant by purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates? Is the Big Mac index a good guide to the degree to which a currency is under- or overvalued?