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The renminbi equilibrium exchange rate: an agnostic view

The supposed undervaluation of the renminbi has been the subject of intensive academic research over the past few years. Using equilibrium exchange rate models (Purchasing Power Parity, BEER and FEER), many authors have concluded that the renminbi is undervalued by 15 to 30% against the dollar. This article shows that the common view is not that obvious. The models used in the estimation (BEER or FEER) assume that the economy is at full-employment, a strong hypothesis for developing economies such as China, whose unemployed amount to 150 million people. On the contrary, we show that China is facing massive unemployment and if investment depends on expected potential demand (from domestic consumption and foreign demand), then an undervalued exchange rate (by traditional standards) is suited for its policy objectives. Therefore the exchange rate can be analyzed as a policy tool used by the Chinese authorities to pursue their objectives. The exchange rate can be undervalued by traditional standards and in equilibrium compared to the government’s policy objectives. This article shows that equilibrium exchange rate theories are not suited for developing countries and therefore the concept of equilibrium exchange rate is highly questionable. The final section analyzes the adoption of a managed float regime by the Popular Bank of China and discusses the delicate issue of the best exchange rate regime for China.

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Paper provided by Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE) in its series Documents de Travail de l'OFCE with number 2006-13.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fce:doctra:0613
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  1. Virginie Coudert & Cécile Couharde, 2005. "Real Equilibrium Exchange Rate in China," Working Papers 2005-01, CEPII research center.
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  8. McKinnon Ronald I, 2006. "China's New Exchange Rate Policy: Will China Follow Japan into a Liquidity Trap?," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 3(5), pages 1-7, April.
  9. Hanen Gharbi,, 2005. "La gestion des taux de change dans les pays émergents: la leçon des expériences récentes," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2005-06, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
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  13. Agnès Bénassy-Quéré & Pascale Duran-Vigneron & Amina Lahrèche-Revil & Mignon, Valerie, 2004. "Burden Sharing and Exchange-Rate Misalignments within the Group of Twenty," Working Papers 2004-13, CEPII research center.
  14. Frankel, Jeffrey, 2004. "On the Renminbi: The Choice between Adjustment under a Fixed Exchange Rate and Adustment under a Flexible Rate," Working Paper Series rwp04-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
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  17. Eswar Prasad & Qing Wang & Thomas Rumbaugh, 2005. "Putting the Cart Before the Horse? Capital Account Liberalization and Exchange Rate Flexibility in China," IMF Policy Discussion Papers 05/1, International Monetary Fund.
  18. Ronald McKinnon, 2005. "Exchange Rate or Wage Changes in International Adjustment? Japan and China versus the United States," Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series d05-103, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  19. Guillaume Daudin & Paola Veroni & Christine Rifflart & Danielle Schweisguth, 2006. "Le commerce extérieur en valeur ajoutée," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/2537, Sciences Po.
  20. Bela Balassa, 1964. "The Purchasing-Power Parity Doctrine: A Reappraisal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 72, pages 584.
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  23. Morris Goldstein & Nicholas R. Lardy, 2005. "China's Role in the Revived Bretton Woods System: A Case of Mistaken Identity," Working Paper Series WP05-2, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  24. Jeffrey A. Frankel & C. Fred Bergsten & Michael L. Mussa, 1994. "Exchange Rate Policy," NBER Chapters, in: American Economic Policy in the 1980s, pages 293-366 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Ronald MacDonald & Peter B. Clark, 1998. "Exchange Rates and Economic Fundamentals; A Methodological Comparison of Beers and Feers," IMF Working Papers 98/67, International Monetary Fund.
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