China's Holdings of U.S. Securities: Implications for the U.S. Economy [Updated January 25, 2008]   [open pdf - 204KB]

"Given its relatively low savings rate, the U.S. economy depends heavily on foreign capital inflows from countries with high savings rates (such as China) to help promote growth and to fund the federal budget deficit. China has intervened heavily in currency markets to limit the yuan's appreciation. As a result, China has become the world's largest and fastest growing holder of foreign exchange reserves (FER), which totaled $1.4 trillion as of September 2007. China has invested a large share of its FER in U.S. securities, which, as of June 2006, totaled $699 billion, making China the 2nd largest foreign holder of U.S. securities (after Japan). These securities include Treasury debt, U.S. agency debt, U.S. corporate debt, and U.S. equities. […] Some U.S. policymakers have expressed concern that China might try to use its large holdings of U.S. securities, including U.S. public debt, as leverage against U.S. policies it opposes. For example, various Chinese government officials are reported to have suggested that China could dump (or threaten to dump) a large share of its holdings to prevent the United States from implementing trade sanctions against China's currency policy. […] The issue of China's large holdings of U.S. securities is part of a larger debate among economists over how long the high U.S. reliance on foreign investment can be sustained, to what extent that reliance poses risks to the economy, and how to evaluate the costs associated with borrowing versus the benefits that would accrue to the economy from that practice."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL34314
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