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Navigating the trilemma: capital flows and monetary policy in China

  • Reuven Glick
  • Michael Hutchison

In recent years China has faced an increasing trilemma—how to pursue an independent domestic monetary policy and limit exchange rate flexibility, while at the same time facing large and growing international capital flows. This paper analyzes the impact of the trilemma on China’s monetary policy as the country liberalizes its goods and financial markets and integrates with the world economy. It shows how China has sought to insulate its reserve money from the effects of balance of payments inflows by sterilizing through the issuance of central bank liabilities. However, we report empirical results indicating that sterilization dropped precipitously in 2006 in the face of the ongoing massive buildup of international reserves, leading to a surge in reserve money growth. We estimate a vector error correction model linking the surge in China’s reserve money to broad money, real GDP, and the price level. We use this model to explore the inflationary implications of different policy scenarios. Under a scenario of continued rapid reserve money growth (consistent with limited sterilization of foreign exchange reserve accumulation) and strong economic growth, the model predicts a rapid increase in inflation. A model simulation using an extension of the framework that incorporates recent increases in bank reserve requirements also implies a rapid rise in inflation. By contrast, model simulations incorporating a sharp slowdown in economic growth lead to less inflation pressure even with a substantial buildup in international reserves.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its series Working Paper Series with number 2008-32.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2008-32
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  1. Jeffrey A. Frankel, 1999. "No Single Currency Regime is Right for All Countries or At All Times," NBER Working Papers 7338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Maurice Obstfeld & Jay Shambaugh & Alan Taylor, 2004. "The Trilemma in History: Tradeoffs among Exchange Rates, Monetary Policies, and Capital Mobility," International Finance 0407003, EconWPA.
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  9. Ouyang, Alice Y. & Rajan, Ramkishen S. & Willett, Thomas D., 2010. "China as a reserve sink: The evidence from offset and sterilization coefficients," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 951-972, September.
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  13. Guonan Ma & Robert McCauley, 2003. "Opening China’s capital account amid ample dollar liquidity," BIS Papers chapters, in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), China's capital account liberalisation: international perspective, volume 15, pages 25-34 Bank for International Settlements.
  14. M S Mohanty & Philip Turner, 2006. "Foreign exchange reserve accumulation in emerging markets: what are the domestic implications?," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, September.
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  17. Eichengreen, Barry, 1999. "Kicking the Habit: Moving from Pegged Rates to Greater Exchange Rate Flexibility," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(454), pages C1-14, March.
  18. Glick, Reuven & Hutchison, Michael M., 2000. "Foreign reserve and money dynamics with asset portfolio adjustment: international evidence," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 10(3-4), pages 229-247, December.
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