By Geoff Dyer in Beijing
Published: December 4 2008 04:32 | Last updated: December 4 2008 19:10
The US was lectured about its economic fragilities on Thursday as senior Chinese officials urged the administration to stabilise its economy, boost its savings rate and protect Chinese investments.
The message went to Hank Paulson, the US Treasury secretary, in Beijing for the strategic economic dialogue he helped launch to discuss long-term issues between the two countries.
As expected, Mr Paulson urged Beijing not to abandon efforts to let the renminbi appreciate, said US officials, amid fears China might want to let its currency weaken to help local exporters weather the global slowdown.
But Mr Paulson also found himself facing calls for the US to address its own economic problems. Wang Qishan, a vice-premier and leader of the Chinese delegation at the two-day talks, called on the US to take swift action to address the crisis.
“We hope the US side will take the necessary measures to stabilise the economy and financial markets as well as guarantee the safety of China’s assets and investments in the US,” he said.
The dialogue was dominated by the global crisis. Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the Chinese central bank, urged the US to rebalance its economy. “Over-consumption and a high reliance on credit is the cause of the US financial crisis,” he said. “As the largest and most important economy in the world, the US should take the initiative to adjust its policies, raise its savings ratio appropriately and reduce its trade and fiscal deficits.”
Although China also faces a rapidly slowing economy and rising unemployment, the tone of the comments reflected an underlying shift in power.
Eswar Prasad, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said: “One result of the crisis is that the US no longer holds the high ground to lecture China on financial or macroeconomic policies.”
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