Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:
You report that “China’s critics, including members of the U.S. Congress, say an undervalued currency unfairly helps Chinese exporters” (“China Boosts Lead in Global Exports,” July 11).
Indeed. If Beijing truly is pursuing such a policy, that government is beyond doubt unfairly enriching some people at the expense of others. And the people unfairly enriched do include a few Chinese exporters. Overwhelmingly, though, the beneficiaries are non-Chinese consumers (including Americans) of China’s subsidized exports. In contrast, the people unfairly burdened are exclusively Chinese citizens – both as consumers forced to pay higher prices at home, and as taxpayers forced to fund Beijing’s practice of purchasing U.S. dollars in order to depress the price of the yuan against the dollar.
It is, in fact, obscenely unfair for Beijing to oblige the Chinese people to hand over chunks of their wealth to Americans, even the poorest of whom is far richer than is the typical man or woman in China.
Donald J. Boudreaux
American producers, of course, are no more ‘unfairly’ harmed by Beijing’s policy of driving down the price of Chinese exports by suppressing the price of the yuan than these American producers are ‘unfairly’ harmed by Beijing’s policy of driving down the price of Chinese exports by building highways and wharves in Qingdao.
UPDATE: Mark Perry chimes in —
MP: The chart above [in Mark’s post] helps to show how American consumers have benefited from China’s “unfair” currency policy by comparing the overall increase in prices (CPI: All items) since 1998 to the price increases for clothing and toys, which are both mentioned in the WSJ article as examples of China’s export dominance in labor-intensive products. While overall prices in the U.S. have increased since 1998 by 39%, clothing prices have fallen by almost 10% and toy prices have fallen by more than 50%. That means that in real terms, clothing is about 49% cheaper now than in 1998 and toys are cheaper by almost 90%.
We can of course thank China’s low wages in part for the dramatic decreases in real prices for clothing and toys purchased in the U.S., but we can also thank the Chinese government for manipulating its currency in favor of American consumers, and we should be grateful for the billions of dollars saved by Americans over the last decade from that manipulation.