Foreign Exchange Accumulation and the Entrapment of Chinese Monetary Power: Towards a Balanced Growth Regime?


Year of publication: 2013
Author(s): Mattias Vermeiren
Appeared in: New Political Economy, vol.: 18


This article criticises the notion that China’s foreign exchange reserves have strengthened its monetary power. While some scholars have argued that China’s international monetary influence has been ‘entrapped’ by the domestic interests of its export sector, a one-sided focus on the export sector fails to identify the significant constraints on its macroeconomic autonomy.Therefore, I propose an extension of the concept of entrapment that draws attention to the key role of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and their domestic fixed-asset investment in its growth regime: China’s external monetary dependency – which is understood as both export depend-ency and the need to maintain foreign exchange accumulation – has been caused by a disparity between fixed-asset investment and private consumption that reflects a redistribution of income from the household sector to the SOE sector. In particular, I expose the SOE sector’s rising interests in foreign exchange accumulation by uncovering a mutually reinforcing dynamic between China’s external monetary dependence and the financial repression of its banking system. By entrenching an investment-led growth regime that provides key benefits the SOE sector, this dynamic is found to have seriously constrained the macroeconomic policy autonomy of Chinese authorities to rebalance growth away from investments and exports towards private consumption.