[Marxism] The Unknowable Fallout of China’s Trade War Nuclear Option

Dennis Brasky dmozart1756 at gmail.com
Tue Oct 9 21:06:39 MDT 2018

China holds more than a trillion dollars in United States debt, and an
escalating trade war could tempt it to wield that debt in a way that has
long been unthinkable.

It is often called the nuclear option.

In the trade war between the United States and China, economists and
investors have long tried to game out how both sides might use their clout.
In virtually all the predictions, at least until recently, they revolved
around a tit-for-tat tariff war.

Even in the gloomiest of doomsday scenarios, there is one weapon that has
long been considered unthinkable: the Chinese, the biggest holder of United
States foreign debt with more than $1 trillion, publicly taking a step back
from buying United States Treasuries — or worse, dumping what they own in
the open market.

The very idea is typically dismissed as a waste of time to even consider,
and the reason is a sort of mutually assured destruction. It would be
wildly irrational in economic terms, the thinking goes. China selling
Treasuries would send interest rates up and hurt the United States, but it
would simultaneously severely damage the value of China’s own Treasury
holdings. As the industrialist J. Paul Getty famously said, “If you owe the
bank $100, that’s your problem; if you owe the bank $100 million, that’s
the bank’s problem.” In the United States-China relationship, China is very
clearly the bank.

Still, critics who dismiss the possibility of China trying to upend the
United States Treasury market say that China’s own economy is too fragile
to risk doing anything that would cause instability.


More information about the Marxism mailing list