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美中贸易冲突的根源:美元与人民币之争

纽约时报中文网 NYT教育频道

ZHANG PENG/LIGHTROCKET, VIA GETTY IMAGES

(本文发表于时报观点与评论版面,作者是Lan Cao。)

The escalating trade war between the United States and China, with the Trump administration considering $100 billion in punitive tariffs in response to China’s $50 billion in retaliatory tariffs, obscures a more important source of conflict: China’s desire to someday establish the yuan as a global reserve currency, on a par with the dollar.

随着特朗普政府考虑以1000亿美元的惩罚性关税来回应中国500亿美元的报复性关税,美中贸易战不断升级,这之下掩盖着更为重要的冲突根源:中国希望有一天将人民币确立为与美元相当的全球储备货币。

The dollar’s status is inextricably linked to international trade. Because the dollar reigns supreme in the trading system, other countries need to accumulate dollars. Most international trade is conducted using the dollar, even if the United States is not a party to the transaction.

美元的地位与国际贸易密不可分。由于在贸易体系中至高无上的地位,其他国家都需要积累美元。即使美国不是交易当事方,大多数国际贸易都是使用美元进行的。

The United States wasn’t always so dominant. After the 1971 decision to end the link between the value of the dollar and gold reserves, the dollar became a currency much like any other. But in 1974, the United States and Saudi Arabia struck an agreement in which the Saudis and the other Gulf states supported the dollar as the primary medium of exchange for oil exports. Thus, oil and other commodities are priced in dollars, so any country that buys oil must build up its dollar reserves to pay for it — mostly by exporting its goods and services so that it can receive dollars as payment.

美国并不是一直占据这样的统治地位。1971年,美国决定不再令美元价值与黄金储备挂钩后,美元成为与其他货币一样的货币。但在1974年,美国和沙特阿拉伯达成协议,沙特和其他海湾国家支持美元作为石油出口交易的主要媒介。这样,石油和其他商品以美元定价,因此任何购买石油的国家都必须建立美元储备来支付——主要是通过出口货物和服务,获得以美元支付的款项。

Once established as a global reserve currency, the dollar has been kept strong by sustained demand for it, and a strong dollar makes American exports expensive to the rest of the world. American exports decline, imports increase, and a result is the trade deficit. Testifying before Congress in 1960, the economist Robert Triffin observed that the dollar’s global reserve status depends on the willingness of the United States to run trade deficits. This relationship, known as Triffin’s Dilemma, doesn’t always hold true (other countries have had reserve currencies and a trade surplus), but the American trade deficit with China, $375.2 billion last year, offers perhaps the best example of how a strong currency and trade deficits are connected.

一旦被确立为全球储备货币,美元就因持续的需求而保持强劲,而走强的美元使得美国出口产品对于世界其他地方而言比较昂贵。这样,美国的出口下降、进口增加,导致贸易逆差。经济学家罗伯特·特里芬(Robert Triffin)1960年在国会作证时表示,美元的全球储备地位取决于美国是否愿意处理贸易赤字。这种被称为“特里芬困境”的联系并不总是成立(其他国家也有储备货币和贸易顺差),但美国去年与中国的贸易逆差为3752亿美元,这或许是强势货币与贸易赤字相关的最好例子。

Still, there are enormous benefits to being able to print paper money and have the world treat it as if it were gold. Other countries need American dollars, and they are willing to pay a premium to hold them. Valery Giscard d’Estaing, finance minister of France from 1962 to 1966, called this an “exorbitant privilege.” Once they have amassed those all-important dollars, countries use them to buy United States Treasury bonds. (China alone held $1.2 trillion dollars of United States government debt at the end of 2017.) This enormous global demand for American debt means that the United States can borrow at relatively low interest rates, financing its budget deficits away.

尽管如此,能够印刷纸币并让全世界把它当作黄金对待,这是有巨大好处的。其他国家需要美元,他们愿意支付高价来持有它们。1962年至1966年,法国财政部长瓦勒里·季斯卡·德斯坦(Valery Giscard d’Estaing)认为这是一种“过分的特权”。其他国家一旦积累起大量至关重要的美元,就会拿来购买美国国债。(截至2017年底,仅中国就拥有1.2万亿美元的美国国债。)全球对美国国债的巨大需求意味着美国可以以相对较低的利率借款,为其预算赤字融资。

The “exorbitant privilege” extends to ordinary Americans, who have access to a vast supply of credit and can borrow to buy homes and cars at lower interest rates.

这种“过分的特权”也延伸到普通美国人身上,他们可以获得大量信贷,并以较低的贷款利率购买住房和汽车。

As the trade war rhetoric escalates, some raise the fear that China could sell off its dollar-denominated assets, which could trigger a rise in interest rates, inflation and possibly devaluation of the dollar. Even the threat of a sudden sell-off can stir up trouble in global currency markets. China could also diversify its cash reserves away from the dollar and acquire yen, euro or sterling instruments, or commodities such as gold. Indeed, China has already been accumulating gold, ranking as one of the world’s largest importers of it.

随着贸易战言论升级,一些人担心中国可能抛售以美元计价的资产,这可能会引发利率上升、通货膨胀和美元贬值。即使是突然抛售的威胁也会扰乱全球货币市场。中国还可以使其现金储备多元化,除了美元,还购买日元、欧元或英镑工具,或是黄金等商品。事实上,中国已经在积累黄金,成为世界上最大的黄金进口国之一。

China and the United States are too closely economically intertwined via the dollar to make that a credible fear. United States treasuries are still the world’s safe haven of choice. And selling off American debt would cause the yuan to appreciate, which would put China’s exports at a disadvantage.

中国和美国在经济上通过美元紧密交织在一起,因此这样的担忧是切实存在的。美国国债仍然是全世界选择的安全港。抛售美国国债会导致人民币升值,并使中国的出口处于劣势。

Still, China is clearly taking steps to ensure a larger role for its currency. In 2015, the yuan was designated by the International Monetary Fund as one of five elite currencies in the world, along with the dollar, the euro, the pound and the yen. China is putting in place a pilot program with Russia and Angola, in which it can buy oil with yuan instead of with dollars. As the biggest importer of crude oil in the world, China believes it has the purchasing power to push for settlement in yuan. Even Saudi Arabia, a stalwart American ally, is under increasing pressure to accept yuan for its oil trade. If the yuan does become a global reserve currency, China, too, could see its influence and economic power expand even further.

尽管如此,中国显然正在采取措施确保人民币发挥更大作用。2015年,人民币被国际货币基金组织(International Monetary Fund)指定为与美元、欧元、英镑和日元并驾齐驱的世界五大货币之一。中国正在与俄罗斯和安哥拉实施一项试点计划,可以用人民币而不是美元购买石油。作为全球最大的原油进口国,中国认为它有购买力推动人民币结算。即使是美国坚定的盟友沙特阿拉伯也面临着接受人民币进行石油交易的压力。如果人民币确实成为全球储备货币,中国也可以看到它的影响力与经济实力进一步扩大。

This is a strategic priority for China, and it is willing to wait. Although it is impossible to predict whether or when the dollar will be dethroned, history offers some clues: The pound sterling reigned supreme before the dollar gradually dislodged it. While the president and his supporters raise doubts about open trade, the dollar’s supremacy is closely tied to it. There is nothing guaranteed about that status, or all the benefits that come with it.

这是中国的战略重点,它愿意为此等待。虽然不可能预测美元是否或是何时会被赶下王位,但历史提供了一些线索:英镑的地位曾是至高无上的,直到它被美元逐渐取代。虽然总统及其支持者对开放贸易表示质疑,但美元的霸权地位与此密切相关。关于这种地位,以及它带来的所有好处,没有任何人能保证会一直持续下去。

本文作者Lan Cao是一名小说家、加州橘子郡查普曼大学戴尔·E·弗勒法学院(Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law)国际经济法教授。 

翻译:纽约时报中文网



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