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索罗斯:金融危机超过预期 必须停止资本外逃

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已领礼包: 13个

财富等级: 恭喜发财

发表于 2008-12-8 18:58 | |阅读模式
11月21日。索罗斯的演讲全文:

贵公司邀请我解析席卷全球金融体系的金融危机,我将尽力阐述。

本次金融危机的显著特点是危机并不是由外部因素,例如石油输出国组织提高油价造成的,而是由金融系统本身导致。目前普遍的金融理论认为金融市场最终趋向均衡,而偏离均衡是由于市场难以调整某些外部突发事件导致的。而金融系统本身存在缺陷这一事实促使人们开始怀疑这一理论。我总结了另外一种理论,与现在的理论主要有两点不同。第一,金融市场并不能准确地反映当前的市场环境,他们反映出的总是对现实状况的偏离或曲解。第二,市场参与者所持的并在市场价格中体现的这些曲解的观点在某些情况下影响了本应由市场价格体现的所谓基本面。我将市场价格和现实状况之间的双向联系称为“反身性理论”。

我认为金融市场具有反射性特点,并且在某些时候,他们会与所谓的市场均衡相去甚远。尽管金融市场总是具有反射性特点,但是金融危机只是偶尔,并且在非常特殊的情况下发生。通常来讲,市场会自动修正本身的错误,但有些时候市场上会出现某些错误的观点或认识,这些错误观点或认识会寻找一种方式强调正确的趋向,并且在这个过程中强调了这些错误观点或认识本身。这种自我增强的过程可能导致市场远离均衡。除非能尽快消除这种反射性的互动,否则这种趋势将持续,直到这些错误观点或认识足够明显,而必须被人们所意识到。当上述情况发生时,当前的错误趋向难以为续,发生逆转。因而当这种自我增强的过程反向运行时,将造成市场灾难性下跌。

市场繁荣和危机爆发总是不对称的。市场总是逐渐进入繁荣阶段并逐渐加速发展。市场危机的爆发总是在非常短时间内发生,并会迅速造成大幅的经济下滑。这种不对称性是由信用发挥的作用决定的。当价格上涨时,同样的抵押品可以获得更大额的信贷,而不断攀升的价格也创造出乐观的市场气氛,鼓励人们更多地利用信贷。市场达到繁荣的顶峰时,抵押品价值和财务杠杆的利用肯定也达到了极致。而当市场价格开始下降时,市场参与者无法承担追加保证金,正如我们现在看到的,抵押品被迫清盘导致市场发生灾难性下滑。

由此,市场泡沫由两部分组成:现实的趋向和对这种趋向的错误认识。最简单和最常见的密切例子就是房地产。房地产市场的趋向是,一方面是贷款方不断提升的贷款意愿,另一方面是不断攀升的房地产价格。这其中存在的误解是房地产的价格在某种程度上是独立于贷款意愿的。这种错误观念促使银行家在价格不断上扬以及抵押贷款违约率减少的情况下放松了对贷款程序的管制。这就产生了房地产泡沫(包括美国最近发生的房产泡沫)。尽管房地产泡沫破裂已经有很长时期,但这种错误观念仍然以各种不同形式存在,着实令人吃惊。

市场泡沫不是金融市场反身性的唯一证明,但却是最显著的。市场泡沫总是伴随着信贷的扩张和收缩,并且带来灾难性的恶果。由于金融市场容易产生泡沫,而泡沫会扰乱市场,因此金融市场大多受金融监管机构的监管。在美国设有美联储、财政部、证券交易委员会等多家金融监管机构。

我们必须认识到,金融监管机构和市场参与者一样,利用曲解的市场观点做出判断。而金融监管机构可能尤甚于市场参与者,因为他们不仅是自然人,同时也十分官僚,而且受制于政治因素的干扰。因此,监管机构和市场参与者的互相影响也具有反身性的特点。与偶尔爆发的市场泡沫不同,监管机构和市场参与者之间的猫鼠游戏一直在持续,因此反身性的特点也一直存在,而忽略它的影响是错误的。但是当下普遍的金融理论恰恰忽略了反身性的特点,因而引发了当前严重的金融危机。

1987年,我在出版的第一本书《金融炼金术》中,曾经阐述过我总结的金融市场理论。最近出版的《金融市场新范式:2008年信用危机及其意义》一书中,我又更新了这一理论。在该书中,我认为,当前的金融危机与以往发生的很多金融危机不同。这个论断是基于这样的假设:美国房地产泡沫的破裂引爆了20世纪80年代以来逐步形成的更大的“超级泡沫”。

房地产泡沫十分简单;但超级泡沫则复杂得多。超级泡沫的发展趋势源于信贷和负债的不断增加。二战结束以后,美国的信贷增长速度远远快于GNP。可是,当罗纳德·里根担任美国总统,玛格丽特·撒切尔担任英国首相后,市场被错误认识所笼罩。因此,增长率不断加速,并在80年代呈现了泡沫的特点。

错误认识来源于当前的金融理论,正如我之前提到的,该理论认为,金融市场趋向均衡,偏离均衡只是由偶然的外部因素引发的。这种理论被用来说明追逐自我利益不应受到约束以及市场应放松管制是合理的。我把这种说法称作“市场原教旨主义”,并且我认为这种论断是建立在错误的论据基础上的。仅仅因为监管和其他形式的Z*F干预被证明是有缺陷的,并不能说明市场是完美的。

尽管市场原教旨主义源于错误的前提,但是它却符合财务资本所有者和管理者的利益。金融市场的全球化促使资本自由流动,也为单个州Z*F的征税和监管带来困难。金融交易的放松管制以及对创新采取的宽松环境提高了金融企业的盈利能力。无论在美国还是英国,金融业创造的利润都达到了所有企业利润总和的三分之一。

由于市场原教旨主义基于错误的假设,因此20世纪80年代将其作为经济政策指导原则的做法必将带来恶果。实际上,从那时起,我们已经经历了一系列金融危机。但是这些恶果对处在全球金融系统最边缘的国*家造成了重创,而不是处于金融系统中心的国*家。因为整个金融系统由发达国*家,特别是在国际货币基金组织享有否决权的美国控制。

一旦金融危机对美国的繁荣产生威胁(例如20世纪80年代末的储蓄和贷款危机,以及1998年对冲基金公司美国长期资本管理公司的倒闭),Z*F就会出面干预,制定政策,解救受困的金融机构,在经济活动放缓的时候出台货币和财政刺激政策。因此,阶段性的危机实际上成为成功的测试因素,鼓励了更大规模的信贷扩张,以及金融市场应独立运行的错误认识。当然,是金融监管机构的干预,而不是金融市场修正本身错误的能力使得这些测试获得成功。但是投资者和Z*F倾向于自我蒙蔽。与出于金融系统边缘的国*家相比,美国的相对安全和稳定促使美国极力吸引全球其他国*家的存款,使得经常账目的保持赤字。2006年第一季度,美国经常账目赤字达到了占GNP 7%的顶峰。

最终,美联储和其他监管机构倾向于市场原教旨主义,放弃了监管的责任。他们更应该了解,正是他们的决策促使美国经济保持平稳。艾伦·格林斯潘尤其相信,宽松的金融创新环境将带来巨大的利益:而相对于创造的生产力,拯救偶然发生的金融灾难只是需要付出的很小的代价。当超级泡沫依然存在的时候,他对所坚持的自由主义政策进行的成本收益分析并未完全错误。直到现在,他才被迫承认他的论断存在缺陷。

金融工程包括为利用财务杠杆创造出人为的金融衍生工具,例如,债务抵押证券和信贷违约掉期等。它还包括为了使得利润最大化而利用日趋复杂的数学模型计算风险。这些金融工具的复杂程度之高使得监管机构无法计算风险,转而依赖金融机构自己的风险管理模型。信用评级机构在评估认为创造的金融工具时也采用了相似的做法:依赖于发行机构提供的数据信息,而评级机构在不断增加的业务中获得了相当可观的收入。这些神秘的金融工具和复杂的风险管理技术都是依赖错误的前提,即市场均衡的偏离总是偶然发生。但是金融工程不断向市场注入持续增强的信贷扩张的理念,打乱了所谓的市场均衡,并最终导致了危机。起初,偶发的金融危机只是成功的测试。但是次贷危机扮演了不同的角色:成为超级泡沫发展的顶峰,或者说是泡沫破裂的转折点。

必须强调的是并非一定要按照我的反身理论来分析解释这个超级泡沫破灭的现状。假使金融当局能够成功控制次贷危机(在他们认为本来能够控制次贷危机的时候),这也只是一次成功的尝试而非实质性的逆转。我的反身理论可以很好的解释目前的现状而非预测。他不像以前那些理论这么张狂。他并不像均衡理论那样所宣称的可以决定结果,但他可以断言一个繁荣最终会危机爆发,但是他不能决定繁荣期的范围和时间。事实上,对于承认房地产泡沫的人都希望其更快破灭。如果真是这样,危害会相对小很多,而且Z*F当局可以有能力让这个超级泡沫继续下去。绝大多数危害都是由于过去两年房地产泡沫终于按揭有关的证券所造成的。

新情况的发生并不能预测未来的解释了为何现在仍没有取得任何进展。而最近的经验表明,但是这一现象不能再继续被忽视。我们必须认识到,反身性理论将“不确定性”这一其它理乱所忽视的因素引入了金融市场。反身性理论可以用于建立数学模型来计算风险,或将捆绑次贷转换为可交易的证券。但是,反身性理论所涉及的这种“不确定性”是无法被数量化的。过度的信赖那些数学模型已经带来了巨大的损失。在我的书里,我曾预测如今的这场金融危机将是自二十世纪三十年代以来最糟糕的一次,而整个危机的发展进程甚至超出我最坏的预期。

9月15日雷曼兄弟宣布破产时,意想不到的事情发生了:金融体系崩溃了。一家大型货币市场基金由于投资雷曼公司发行的商业票据损失了其部分资产,使得“货币市场基金中的投资永远是安全而具有流动性的”这一潜在保证被打破了。这引发了货币市场基金的恶性循环,并迫使作为商业票据市场中最主要买家的货币市场基金开始停止购买任何商业票据,从而导致了整个票据市场的失灵。因此,所有商业票据的发行人(即使最大、最有信用的公司)都被迫降低了他们的信用额度,这又使得银行间拆借处于停滞状态。信用利差(即高于无风险利率的风险溢价)被放大到前所未有的程度,并且导致股票市场充斥着恐慌情绪。而这一切都发生于短短一周之内。

世界经济仍被后续的影响持续拖累。各国政策制定者都注入大量的资金来恢复金融系统的活力,把这一点定位为重中之重。联邦储备的资产负债表短短几周时间从8000亿美元膨胀到了1.8万亿美元。当这样还尚显不足时,美国和欧洲的金融政策制定者都空开许诺,他们决不会放任任何一家大型金融机构倒闭。

这些前所未有措施开始显现一些效果:银行间拆借恢复,伦敦银行同业拆借利率有所改善。金融危机开始显现消退的迹象,但是对于国际金融中心银行不会倒闭的担保正在引起一个新的危机,而这还未引起各国政策制定者的重视:处于国际金融体系边缘的国*家,比如东欧、亚洲、拉美地区的国*家,他们并不能做出同样的担保,因此,金融资本正在从国际金融边缘国*家向中心国*家流动。相对于美元和日元,其他货币的开始贬值,其中一些贬值程度非常巨大。大宗商品价格一落千丈,新兴国*家利率飙升。对于信用违约的保险费用也不断上涨。对冲基金和其它杠杆工具投资者承受了巨大损失,追加保证金通知及被迫抛售蔓延到了中心国*家的股票市场。最近,信贷市场又重新开始恶化。

不幸的是,政策制定者一般总是后知后觉。国际货币基金组织正在设立一个新的信贷机构专为财政健康的金融边缘国*家无条件提供5倍于年配额的贷款,但已经杯水车薪为时晚矣。重新稳定市场需要更多的资金。即使实力稍强的边缘国*家可以渡过难关,那么国力弱小国*家又将如何呢?拯救国际金融系统的战斗还在继续。即使最终成功,消费者、投资人、产业都已经收到巨大的冲击,这对国际经济活动已经产生全面而长久的影响。深层次经济衰退已经不可避免,造成类似于20世纪30年代的经济萧条也并非毫无可能。

这种严酷的形势对中国会产生何种影响呢?从很多方面来看,中国的情况要比其它许多国*家要好得多。中国已经成为全球一体化主要的受益方。相对于其它国*家来说,中国外汇储备充足,银行体系并未收到严重损失,中国Z*F相较别国Z*F参与了更多的政策选择。但是,中国却无可避免会受到全球经济衰退的影响。出口大幅缩减,铁矿石等大宗商品库存增加,股票市场比其国*家下跌更加严重,而且房地产泡沫也开始破裂。中国需要刺激内需,但这还是远远不够,中国还需要在推动全球经济方面扮演更加主动的角色。否则,出口方面不可能有所好转。

包括国际货币基金组织和世界银行在内的国际金融组织也有了新的职责:保护处于国际金融体系边缘的国*家免受位于该体系中心的美国所产生的金融危机的冲击。因为中国巨大的外汇储备,如果没有中国的协助,他们就不可能完成这样的职责。幸运的是,美国的新总统非常清楚国际合作的必要性。我们非常希望中国的领导人也同样能看清这种合作的重要性。

合作应该包括哪些方面呢?超级泡沫源于美国的消费超过其生产能力。2006年,美国经常项目赤字高达美国GDP的7%。而这一高额赤字是通过中国和其它亚洲出口导向型国*家和其它石油生产国越来越大的美元贸易顺差所支撑的。这种共生的关系现在已经结束,美国的消费已经不能再继续作为拉动世界经济增长的发动机。因此我们需要寻找新的动力。这意味着中国和世界其它国*家要在经济衰退时期通过财政赤字政策刺激内需。中国可以做到这一点,但是正在受到金融资本外逃冲击的其它国际金融系统边缘国*家无法做到。我们必须努力停止这种资本外逃,而且需要找到有效的方法来为这些边缘国*家的财政赤字筹集资金。如果没有顺差国*家和大量国*家主权基金投入的支持,这就不可能实现。即使这样也许还远远不够,信用系统的崩塌和财富减少的如此严重,可用资金已经非常不足。或许有必要通过国际货币基金组织发行特别提款权等形式提供更多的资金。无论如何,刺激消费者需求也许最终仍并不是正确的方式,因为它包括了为支持信贷消费而产生的信贷扩张,而信用应该主要用于支持投资。

我相信会有其它的解决途径。世界正在对抗全球变暖这一严重紧迫的难题,为使环境问题得到控制,需要在节约能源和寻找替代能源方面进行巨大的投资。这应该可以成为推动世界经济的动力。为使这一切成为可能,我们需要针对巨大的碳排放制定一个国际准则,要求为燃烧煤炭产生的碳排放定价和支付费用。当然这样的国际准则制定没有中国的参与是无法实现的。

我希望可以现场回答你们的问题,我相信一定很多问题。

已领礼包: 13个

财富等级: 恭喜发财

 楼主| 发表于 2008-12-8 18:59 |
附英文演讲稿

Taped Speech To Be Presented On Friday, November 21 in Beijing, China

You have asked me to explain the crisis that has engulfed the global financial system. I’ll do my best.

The salient feature of the crisis is that it was not caused by some extraneous event such as the OPEC raising the price of oil; it was generated by the financial system itself. This fact—that the defect was inherent in the system — discredits the prevailing theory, which holds that financial markets tend toward equilibrium, and that deviations from the equilibrium are caused by some sudden external shock which markets have difficulty adjusting to. I have developed an alternative theory that differs from the current one in two important respects. First, financial markets don’t reflect the underlying conditions accurately. They provide a picture that is always biased or distorted in some way or another. Second, the distorted views held by market participants and expressed in market prices can, under certain circumstances, affect the so-called fundamentals that market prices are supposed to reflect. I call this two-way circular connection between market prices and the underlying reality ‘reflexivity’.

I contend that financial markets are always reflexive and on occasion they can veer quite far away from the so-called equilibrium. While markets are reflexive at all times, financial crises occur only occasionally, and in very special circumstances. Usually markets correct their own mistakes, but occasionally there is a misconception or misinterpretation that finds a way to reinforce a trend that is real and by doing so it also reinforces itself. Such self- reinforcing processes may carry markets into far-from-equilibrium territory. Unless something happens to abort the reflexive interaction sooner, it may persist until the misconception becomes so glaring that it has to be recognized as such. When that happens the trend becomes unsustainable and when it is reversed the self-reinforcing process starts working in the opposite direction, causing a catastrophic downturn.

The typical sequence of boom and bust has an asymmetric shape. The boom develops slowly and accelerates gradually. The bust, when it occurs, tends to be short and sharp. The asymmetry is due to the role that credit plays. As prices rise, the same collateral can support a greater amount of credit. And rising prices also tend to generate optimism and encourage a greater use of credit. At the peak of the boom both the value of the collateral and the degree of leverage are, by definition, at a peak. When the price trend is reversed participants are vulnerable to margin calls and, as we have seen recently, the forced liquidation of collateral leads to a catastrophic acceleration on the downside.

Thus bubbles have two components: a trend that prevails in reality and a misconception relating to that trend. The simplest and most common example is to be found in real estate. The trend consists of an increased willingness to lend and a rise in the price of real estate. The misconception is that the price of real estate is somehow independent of the willingness to lend. That misconception encourages bankers to become more lax in their lending practices as prices rise and defaults on mortgage payments diminish. That is how real estate bubbles, including the recent housing bubble in the United States, are born. It is remarkable how the misconception continues to recur in various guises in spite of a long history of real estate bubbles bursting.

Bubbles are not the only manifestations of reflexivity in financial markets, but they are the most spectacular. Bubbles always involve the expansion and contraction of credit and they tend to have catastrophic consequences. Since financial markets are prone to produce bubbles and bubbles cause trouble, financial markets have become regulated by the financial authorities. In the United States they include the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and many other agencies.

It’s important to recognize that regulators base their decisions on a distorted view of reality just as much as market participants—perhaps even more so because regulators are not only human but also bureaucratic and subject to political influences. So the interplay between regulators and market participants is also reflexive in character. In contrast to bubbles, which occur only infrequently, the cat-and-mouse game between markets and regulators goes on continuously. As a consequence reflexivity is at work at all times and it is a mistake to ignore its influence. Yet that is exactly what the prevailing theory of financial markets has done and that mistake is ultimately responsible for the severity of the current crisis.

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 楼主| 发表于 2008-12-8 19:00 |
I have originally proposed my theory of financial markets in my first book, The Alchemy of Finance, published in 1987 and I brought it up to date in my latest book The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means. In that book, I argue that the current crisis differs from the various financial crises that have preceded it. I base that assertion on the hypothesis that the explosion of the US housing bubble acted as a detonator of a much larger "super-bubble" that has been developing since the 1980s.

The housing bubble is simple; the super-bubble is much more complicated. The underlying trend in the super-bubble has been the ever-increasing use of credit and leverage. In the United States, credit has been growing at a much faster rate than the gross national product ever since the end of World War II. But the rate of growth accelerated and took on the characteristics of a bubble in the 1980s when it was reinforced by a misconception that became dominant when Ronald Reagan became president and Margaret Thatcher was prime minister in the United Kingdom.

The misconception is derived from the prevailing theory of financial markets, which, as I mentioned, holds that financial markets tend toward equilibrium and deviations are random and can be attributed to external causes. This theory has been used to justify the belief that the pursuit of self-interest should be given free rein and markets should be deregulated. I call that belief market fundamentalism and I contend that it is based on a false argument. Just because regulations and all other forms of governmental interventions have proven to be faulty, it does not follow that markets are perfect.

Although market fundamentalism is based on false premises, it has served the interests of the owners and managers of financial capital very well. The globalization of financial markets has allowed financial capital to move around freely and made it difficult for individual states to tax it or regulate it. Deregulation of financial transactions and the freedom to innovate have enhanced the profitability of financial enterprises. The financial industry grew to a point where it produced about a third of all corporate profits both in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

Since market fundamentalism is built on false assumptions, its adoption in the 1980s as the guiding principle of economic policy was bound to have adverse consequences. Indeed, we have experienced a series of financial crises since then, but the negative consequences were suffered principally by the countries that lie at the periphery of the global financial system, not by those at the center. That’s because the system is under the control of the developed countries, especially the United States, which enjoys veto rights in the International Monetary Fund.

Whenever a crisis endangered the prosperity of the United States—as for example the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s, or the collapse of the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management in 1998—the authorities intervened, finding ways to bail out the failing institutions and providing monetary and fiscal stimulus when the pace of economic activity was endangered. Thus the periodic crises served, in effect, as successful tests that reinforced both the underlying trend of ever-greater credit expansion and the prevailing misconception that financial markets should be left to their own devices. It was of course the intervention of the financial authorities that made the tests successful, not the ability of financial markets to correct their own excesses. But it was convenient for investors and governments to deceive themselves. The relative safety and stability of the United States, compared to the countries at the periphery, allowed the United States to suck up the savings of the rest of the world and run a current account deficit that reached 7 percent of GNP at its peak in the first quarter of 2006.

Eventually even the Federal Reserve and other regulators succumbed to the market fundamentalist ideology and abdicated their responsibility to regulate. They ought to have known better since it was their actions that kept the United States economy on an even keel. Alan Greenspan, in particular, believed that giving financial innovations free rein brought such great benefits that having to clean up behind the occasional financial mishap was a small price to pay for the gain in productivity. And while the super-bubble lasted his analysis of the costs and benefits of his permissive policies was not totally wrong. Only now has he been forced to acknowledge that there was a flaw in his argument.

Financial engineering involved the creation of synthetic financial instruments for leveraging credit with names like Collateral Debt Obligations and Credit Default Swaps. It also involved increasingly sophisticated mathematical models for calculating risks in order to maximize profits. This engineering reached such heights of complexity that the regulators could no longer calculate the risks and came to rely on the risk management models of the financial institutions themselves. The rating agencies followed a similar path in rating synthetic financial instruments, they relied on information provided by the issuing houses and they derived considerable additional revenues from the increase in their business. The esoteric financial instruments and sophisticated techniques for risk management were based on the false premise that deviations from the equilibrium occur in a random fashion. But the increased use of financial engineering disturbed the so-called equilibrium by setting in motion a self-reinforcing process of credit expansion. So eventually there was hell to pay. At first the occasional financial crises served as successful tests. But the subprime crisis came to play a different role: it served as the culmination or reversal point of the super-bubble.

It should be emphasized that this interpretation of the current situation on the bursting of the super-bubble does not necessarily follow from my theory of reflexivity. Had the financial authorities succeeded in containing the subprime crisis—as they thought at the time they would be able to do—this would have been seen as just another successful test instead of the reversal point. My theory of reflexivity can explain events better than it can predict them. It is less ambitious than the previous theory. It doesn’t claim to determine the outcome as equilibrium theory does. It can assert that a boom must eventually lead to a bust, but it cannot determine the extent of or the duration of a boom. Indeed, those of us who recognized that there was a housing bubble expected it to burst much sooner. Had it done so, the damage would have been much smaller and authorities might have been able to keep the super-bubble going. Most of the damage was caused by mortgage-related securities issued in the last two years of the housing bubble.

The fact that the new paradigm doesn’t claim to predict the future explains why it did not make any headway until now, but in light of the recent experience it can no longer be ignored. We must come to terms with the fact that reflexivity introduces an element of uncertainty into financial markets that the previous theory left out of account. That theory was used to establish mathematical models for calculating risk and converting bundles of subprime mortgages into tradable securities. But the uncertainty connected with reflexivity can’t be quantified. Excessive reliance on those mathematical models did untold harm. In my book, I predicted that the current financial crisis would be the worst since the 1930s but the actual course of events actually exceeded my worst expectations.

When Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy on September 15, the inconceivable occurred: the financial system actually melted down. A large money market fund that had invested in commercial paper issued by Lehman Brothers lost part of its asset value, thereby breaking an implicit promise that deposits in such funds are totally safe and liquid. This started a run on money market funds and forced the funds to stop buying commercial paper. Since they were the largest buyers, the commercial paper market ceased to function. The issuers of commercial paper, which include the largest and most respected corporations, were forced to draw down their credit lines, bringing interbank lending to a standstill. Credit spreads—that is to say, the risk premium over and above the riskless rate of interest—widened to unprecedented levels and eventually the stock market also was overwhelmed by panic. All this happened in the space of a week.

The world economy is still reeling from the after effects. Resuscitating the financial system then took precedence over all other considerations and the authorities injected ever larger quantities of money. The balance sheet of the Federal Reserve ballooned from $800 billion to $1.8 trillion in a couple of weeks. When that was not enough, the American and European financial authorities publicly pledged themselves, that they would not allow any other major financial institution to fail.

These unprecedented measures began to have some effect: interbank lending resumed and the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) improved. Thefinancial crisis showed signs of abating. But guaranteeing that the banks at the center of the global financial system will not fail has precipitated a new crisis that caught the authorities unawares: countries at the periphery, whether in Eastern Europe, Asia, or Latin America, couldn’t offer similar credible guarantees, and financial capital started fleeing from the periphery to the center. All currencies fell against the dollar and the yen, some of them precipitously. Commodity prices dropped like a stone and interest rates in emerging markets soared. So did premiums on insurance against credit default. Hedge funds and other leveraged investors suffered enormous losses, precipitating margin calls and forced selling that have also spread to the stock markets at the center. In recent days, the credit markets have also started to deteriorate again.

Unfortunately the authorities are always lagging behind events. The International Monetary Fund is establishing a new credit facility that allows financially sound periphery countries to borrow without any conditions up to five times their annual quota, but that is too little too late. A much larger pool of money is needed to reassure markets. And if the top tier of periphery countries is saved, what happens to the lower-tier countries? The race to save the international financial system is still ongoing. Even if it is successful, consumers, investors, and businesses have suffered a traumatic shock whose full impact on the global economic activity is yet to be felt. A deep recession is now inevitable and the possibility of a depression comparable to the 1930s cannot be ruled out.

What are the implications of this dire situation for China? In many ways China is better situated than most other countries. It had been the main beneficiary of globalization. It has amassed large currency reserves, its banking system is relatively unscathed and the government enjoys a greater range of policy choices than other governments. But China is not immune from the global recession. Exports have dropped, inventories of iron ore and other commodities are excessive, the stock market has declined further than in most other countries, and the real estate boom has turned into a bust. Domestic demand needs to be stimulated, but that is not enough. China must also play a constructive role in stimulating the global economy, otherwise exports can’t recover.

The international financial institutions – the IMF and the World Bank – have a new mission in life: To protect the countries at the periphery of the system from the effects of a financial crisis that has originated at the center of that system, the United States. They cannot carry out that mission without the active support of China, exactly because China has accumulated tremendous currency reserves. Fortunately the United States has a new President who fully recognizes the need for greater international cooperation. Hopefully the Chinese leadership will also recognize the need.

What is involved in such cooperation? The super-boom was fueled by the United States consuming more than it produced. In 2006, the current account deficit of the United States reached 7% of its GNP. The deficit was financed by China, other Asian exporters and some oil-producing countries accumulating larger and larger dollar surpluses. This symbiotic relationship has now ended; the American consumer can no longer serve as the motor of the world economy. A new motor has to be found. That means that China and the rest of the world must stimulate domestic demand by running fiscal deficits during the recession. China can afford to do so but countries at the periphery of the global financial system can’t because they are suffering from an exodus of financial capital. The exodus must be stopped and a way must be found to finance fiscal deficits in periphery countries. This can’t be done without the help of the surplus countries and the large-scale commitment of sovereign wealth funds. Even that may not be enough because the collapse of credit and the destruction of wealth are so severe that there may not be enough money available. It may be necessary to create additional money by the IMF issuing Special Drawing Rights or SDRs. In any case, stimulating consumer demand may not be the right way to go because it involves credit expansion for financing consumption. Credit ought to be used primarily for financing investment.

I believe the solution lies elsewhere. The world is confronting an urgent problem in global warming. To bring it under control will require tremendous investments in energy savings and alternative energy sources. That ought to provide the motor for the world economy. To make that possible we need an international agreement that would impose a price on carbon emissions that is sufficiently high to pay for the extraction of carbon from coal. No such agreement is possible without Chinese participation.
I wish I could be there in person to answer your questions, I’m sure you have many.


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