Challenges Facing the People’s Republic of China
Edited by Juhzon Zhuang, Paul Vandenberg and Yiping Huang
Chapter 9: Monetary and fiscal operations: a look at the options
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) operates a sovereign currency, albeit in a dollar-standard world in which the vast majority of international transactions are denominated and often cleared in United States (US) dollars. This chapter explores the policy space available to the PRC as a sovereign currency issuer, and concludes that the central government has the fiscal capacity to continue pursuing economic growth at a pace consistent with its development objectives. The government can afford to spend on its development path and it has the policy space to do so even if it means incurring a fiscal deficit. Here, the PRC is in a similar position to other monetarily sovereign nations, most of which run budget deficits. Even so, excessive government spending can fuel inflation—and this chapter does not argue for greater government spending in the PRC in itself. Instead, it recommends that while total government spending in the PRC might be at the right level, the distribution between central and local government spending appears to be imbalanced. For one thing, corporations and local governments are probably issuing too much debt relative to their income flows and the central government issuing too little. If central government policy is tight, slower economic growth could put the balance sheets of domestic currency users in a potentially precarious position. If the current account surplus is reduced, or if the central government tries to move toward a balanced budget, the economic slowdown will be aggravated.
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