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Making sense of China’s excessive foreign reserves

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  • Yi Wen

Abstract

Large uninsured risk, severe borrowing constraints, and rapid income growth can create excessively high household saving rates and large current account surpluses for emerging economies. Therefore, the massive foreign-reserve buildups by China are not necessarily the intended outcome of any government policies or an undervalued home currency, but instead a natural consequence of the country’s rapid economic growth in conjunction with an inefficient financial system (or lack of timely financial reform). A tractable growth model of precautionary saving is provided to quantitatively explain China’s extraordinary path of trade surplus and foreign-reserve accumulation in recent decades. Ironically, the analysis suggests that without a well-developed domestic financial market, the value of the renminbi (RMB) may significantly depreciate, instead of appreciate, once the Chinese government abandons the linked exchange rate and the massive amount of precautionary savings of Chinese households are unleashed toward international financial markets to search for better returns.

Suggested Citation

  • Yi Wen, 2011. "Making sense of China’s excessive foreign reserves," Working Papers 2011-006, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2011-006
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    File URL: http://research.stlouisfed.org/wp/2011/2011-006.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Durdu, Ceyhun Bora & Mendoza, Enrique G. & Terrones, Marco E., 2009. "Precautionary demand for foreign assets in Sudden Stop economies: An assessment of the New Mercantilism," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2), pages 194-209, July.
    2. Jiandong Ju & Shang-Jin Wei, 2010. "Domestic Institutions and the Bypass Effect of Financial Globalization," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 173-204, November.
    3. Ricardo J. Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, 2008. "An Equilibrium Model of "Global Imbalances" and Low Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 358-393, March.
    4. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Olivier Jeanne, 2013. "Capital Flows to Developing Countries: The Allocation Puzzle," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(4), pages 1484-1515.
    5. Damiano Sandri, 2014. "Growth and Capital Flows with Risky Entrepreneurship," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 102-123, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Seghezza, Elena & Morelli, Pierluigi & Pittaluga, Giovanni B., 2017. "Reserve accumulation and exchange rate policy in China: The authoritarian elite's aim of political survival," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 163-174.
    2. Choukhmane, Taha & Coeurdacier, Nicolas & Jin, Keyu, 2013. "The One-Child Policy and Household Savings," CEPR Discussion Papers 9688, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Dai, Meixing, 2011. "Motivations and strategies for a real revaluation of the Yuan," MPRA Paper 30440, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Philippe Bacchetta & Kenza Benhima & Yannick Kalantzis, 2013. "Capital Controls with International Reserve Accumulation: Can This Be Optimal?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(3), pages 229-262, July.
    5. repec:eee:dyncon:v:90:y:2018:i:c:p:284-309 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    International trade ; Balance of trade - China ; International finance;

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