The Last Year of American Hegemony
By JC Collins
Update: The IMF and China sign agreement on strengthening fiscal institutions and capacity development. China is now heavily involved with the integration of its financial and monetary architecture within the macro multilateral framework. This should eliminate any remaining doubt as to the validity of the transition. – JC
One of the biggest questions which we need to consider as the world moves closer to the full implementation of the multilateral financial system is when will the RMB end its managed peg to the USD? Now that the official request has been made to the International Monetary Fund, for the yuan to be included into the SDR basket composition, it is only a matter of time before the ending of the peg occurs.
There are a few time frames we are working with. One is the May meeting of the IMF where the first formal discussions around the new SDR composition will take place. The second is in October, which is when the new composition will be confirmed. Finally, the new basket will come into effect on January 1, 2016.
There are some key indicators and trends which we can use to build a case for the time frame of this event(s).
The official IMF transcript of a speech Christine Lagarde gave in China yesterday will offer us our first clues. The excerpts below are from that speech, followed by my interpretations.
“The implementation of structural reforms as outlined in the 3rd Plenum Blueprint is underway. This should lead to slower, safer, and more sustainable growth–with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship–which will be good for China and its people – and good for the world.”
The market and financial reforms from China’s Third Plenum detailed back in 2013 have been discussed across many platforms. The consensus is that the financial reform component of the Plenum, which included the mechanism for exchange rate adjustments, was a reference to the widening of the exchange rate band with the USD that took place last year.
It is my contention that this segment of the Plenum is referring to a larger move in the exchange rate mechanism, as would be necessary for the RMB to be included in the SDR basket. Having the yuan remain pegged to the dollar would be pointless in the SDR framework, as it would not offer broader stability, which is the point of the inclusion in the first place.
“I noted the impressive efforts made by the Chinese government to reform in three key areas in particular: cleaning up the house, by promoting good governance through strengthening the legal framework and the anti-corruption campaign; cleaning up the air, by curbing pollution and preserving the environment; and clearing the path to even more engagement with the world, through China’s further participation in the multilateral dialogue and through more international investment and trade. I welcomed China’s various initiatives in this area, including through the newly established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).”
This statement was thoroughly discussed in the previous post titled The Coming Western Tribunals. The references made in that post to historical sovereign bond debts and environmental cleanup, as well as anti-corruption, is validated with this statement from the IMF.
“I am very impressed by the rapid internationalization of Renminbi (RMB) in recent years. The authorities’ commitment to accelerate reforms, particularly in the financial and external sectors, should further facilitate the international use of the RMB. The authorities have also expressed interest in having the RMB included in the SDR basket. We welcome and share this objective, and we will work closely with the Chinese authorities in this regard.”
This statement confirms the information which was provided last year in the post titled Renminbi is Already A Defacto Reserve Currency.
“During our meetings, we also discussed the delays in implementing the IMF’s 2010 quota and governance reform. I share the authorities’ view that every effort should continue to be undertaken to ensure that these reforms can be made effective as soon as possible.”
This was previously reviewed in the post Renminbi and the Alternative IMF Reforms.
The trend of information which we have been following for the last 15 months is now being validating almost daily as the official announcements and events play out as expected.
It is rudimentary to suggest that the country with the largest economy on Earth can not keep its currency pegged to that of another. The price discovery which will take place in the opening days of the pegs end will see appreciations of the RMB. Some of the benefits of this upward valuation will be realized as foreign funds are encouraged to enter China, there will be lower Chinese company operating costs, in the form of cheaper imports, and the Chinese will be able to purchase foreign assets cheaper.
The appreciation of the yuan will also slow economic growth within China, which is also something mentioned above by Lagarde in her speech. This was also reviewed in the post The Redback Revolution.
To determine the timing of this event(s) we need to consider what other factors and systemic implementations align with the months of May and October.
First, there is the China International Payment System, or CIPS, which was originally scheduled to be operational in 2014, but was delayed due to technical difficulties. (This technical difficulty may have something to do with the missing Malaysian plane last year, which had 20 employees from the computer processor manufacture Freescale Semiconductor. A spokesman for the company said the employees, who were traveling to China, were very important employees of the company who worked on processor technology. There is little additional information available, but the timing of the planes disappearance with the original start date of CIPS, is highly questionable. See post The Algorithmic Central Bankers for additional information.)
It is now stated that the CIPS system is ready to go, and is only going through final testing with 20 banking institutions, 13 of which are Chinese, and the remainder as foreign subsidiary banks. The new operational start date is in October, but it could be fully operational at any time.
This October time frame corresponds with the next fiscal crisis in America where the debt ceiling is reached and the Treasury runs out of money to fund the government. This could create an excellent pretext for the Chinese to end the peg. When a similar situation happened in October of 2013, the Chinese were very outspoken on the volatility in the USD.
It has been suggested that China may announce its actual gold reserves this spring, either April or May. This corresponds with the May time frame of the initial formal IMF discussion on the SDR basket changes. Lets explore this some more.
Chris Hamilton wrote a piece last week which was published on the SRSroccoReport site. In it he discussed the increase in China gold reserves, where those reserves came from, and how they were paid.
“Who would have this massive amount of gold in inventory (and willingly sell it at significantly lower prices) and why would the price of gold collapse on this clear imbalance in demand over supply? Most sources of potential inventory are audited on a regular basis and this draw-down would be quite noticeable. Of course, the greatest source of gold holdings are collectively held by the Federal Reserve and the US Federal government…and this is not openly audited.”
“Put it all together…China, the largest buyer of US Treasury’s ceases buying Treasury’s…and US Treasury yields collapse?!? The Chinese (and others) buy record amounts of gold and create an imbalance of demand over available supply…and prices collapse?!? These are clearly not the actions of a market attempting to find a balance between price, supply, and demand.”
The transfer of massive amounts of gold to China is something which has been well covered by many analysts, Chris Hamilton being one of them, and Koos Jansen being another. Let’s explore a very real possibility for the source of this gold transfer.
China has a sovereign debt which hasn’t been honored, and will need to be before the RMB can be considered for the SDR composition. This debt, estimated at more than $1 trillion today, was issued in the first half of the 20th Century in the form of bonds, and was supported by the vast amount of gold holdings which the Japanese took from the country during its brutal invasion in the lead up to World War 2.
From the New English Review piece titled Will China Pay the $1 Trillion it Owes Americans:
“The Chinese government doesn’t like to talk about it and the U.S. government doesn’t want to raise it. But decades ago, Beijing defaulted on debt owed to Americans, as well as investors and governments around the world. In one case, it was paid. In the rest it was not. More than 20,000 American investors own this debt. The U.S. government may also own Chinese war debt, unpaid since World War II.”
The one case in which the bonds were honored was in the changeover of Hong Kong from British control to Chinese control. British bond holders were paid out and the rest were ignored. From this we can determine that China is using this sovereign debt as a strategic tool in its bargaining with the existing international framework.
With that being said, the increase in gold holdings which Chris Hamilton has referenced above is reflective of the gold which had been stolen from China by the Japanese, which the bonds had been issued on, and is now returning back to China. This was obviously a requirement before China would honor the bonds.
The closure of this bond deal, and the announcement of the official Chinese gold holdings, will correspond with the end of the RMB and USD peg. China, as previously stated, will likely partially support the yuan with these official gold holdings.
If this indeed takes place in April or May, it will correspond with the first formal SDR meeting at the IMF.
The October time frame aligns with the operational start dates of both the BRICS Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
So far, we have most key indicators pointing towards the October time frame, which corresponds with the final review and decision on the SDR composition.
But before making any final conclusions, we will need to take a closer look at the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization and how China’s trade partners will react to an end of the RMB/USD peg.
The CMIM is an agreement between ASEAN members to help provide assistance to countries experiencing balance of payments and short term liquidity difficulties. The agreement came into effect on July 17, 2014, around the same time the CIPS systems was to come online.
Under CMIM, a member country can draw up to 30% of its allocated quota amount under the agreement, without being subject to IMF conditions. The remaining amount, 70%, is required to be connected with an IMF program. The CMIM acts as a supplemental regional safety net to the IMF. As such, the CMIM cannot function without the IMF.
The Chiang Mai Initiative is one segment of the ASEAN Economic Community blueprint. For those who don’t know, AEC is a game changer. It’s mandates are nothing less than:
- Harmonization in payment and settlement system (CIPS)
- An Asian monetary union (with countries maintaining their domestic currencies)
- Single market for financial products
- Uniform exchange rates between ASEAN members
All phases of integration are scheduled to be completed and operational by Jan 1, 2016, the same date that the new SDR composition, with the RMB, will take effect.
International audit and financial advisory company Deloitte has published a document titled The ABC of AEC – To 2015 and Beyond. This document attempts to explain and direct the reader through the maze of AEC integration, and why its important. The document opens with this:
Across Southeast Asia, all the chatter around the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is focused on a single date: 31 December 2015. But the reality is that not everyone understands what that date means. What is it and why wait until then to do it? What will the impact be? Will we wake up to a different world on 1 January 2016?
The obvious connection between the CMIM, and it’s IMF structure and mechanics, with the AEC, and its operational start date of Jan 1, 2015, along with the new SDR composition, is clear evidence for the reality of the macro multilateral framework which we have researched and presented here on this site.
The phased integration of AEC and the relationship between the IMF and CMIM make the 2010 IMF Quota and Governance Reforms all the more important. The AEC, and by default the CMIM, cannot function without the fair representation of China and other emerging economies on the Executive Board of the IMF. Not to mention that the quota amounts from both the IMF and CMIM will have to align at the 30%/70% ratio defined above.
But it doesn’t end there.
With the regional exchange rate coordination, or uniform exchange rate between ASEAN members, we are likely to see most countries peg their domestic currencies to the Chinese yuan, as it will be the regional reserve currency which is in the SDR composition. This will position the AEC to avoid the inherent challenges in a regional currency like the euro, which it has publicly stated it does not want.
The uniform exchange rate structure will ensure that no opposing, or dual exchange rates are used within the monetary union. It is highly unlikely this means all currencies will be at parity, but member countries could use the Shanghai Gold Exchange as a means of supporting the uniform structure, with predetermined rates set for each member country, based on similar weights as what will be used in the SDR composition.
This is the mechanism by which we are likely to see a revaluation of regional domestic currencies, such as the Vietnamese dong. We have reviewed the probability and intent of the State Bank of Vietnam to at some point end the dongs peg with the USD and peg to their largest trading partner, which is China. This was discussed in the post Dongs Revaluation is Imminent.
We can see now that the mechanism which will be used for this revaluation is built within the structure and phase integration of the AEC implementation, which in turn is determined by the larger process of the RMB being given reserve status and included in the SDR composition. And the SDR is the reserve unit of account used by the IMF. The same IMF which supersedes the mandates and organizational flow of the CMIM, Chiang Mai Initiative.
In the post Dong and the Pan-Asian FX Trading Center we reviewed how the dong and yuan were already directly convertible in a test market only. This fits within the parameters of the AEC blueprint as well.
Returning the time frame for the RMB to end the peg to the USD, we are still faced with the two possible dates of May and Oct, with the final results being in full effect on January 1, 2016.
It could really happen at any time in between May and Oct, but I will put forth one possibility which has begun to settle well on me, considering the careful action of China at every step of internationalizing the yuan.
It is possible that we could see China announce their full gold holdings in April or May, in time for the first formal meeting on the SDR, and perhaps even partially peg the RMB to gold, while at the same time widening the USD peg instead of removing it. This would allow the Chinese to feel their way through any possible market adjustments or fluctuations in the price of gold, and volatility with the dollar.
This would serve to apply more depreciation pressure on the USD in the lead up months to the US budget crisis and SDR confirmation meeting in October. At that time, China could fully sever the peg with the USD and allow the yuan to float freely and realize the price discovery appreciations which would have built up in the currency like a stored kinetic energy.
The other ASEAN members would follow and lead into the final implementation of the AEC blueprint by the end of the year, which is meant to correspond with the new SDR on January 1, 2016.
And lets not forget that the AIIB and BRICS Development Bank will also be fully operational at that time as well.
Subscribe to POM for detailed analysis on macroeconomic trends.
All 3 month and 1 year subscriptions receive access to the epublication series The Economic Transition Papers.