Chinese Premier: "Protectionism Is Clearly Reasserting Itself"

At the start of today's Chinese National People's Congress, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao poured water over expectations that the renminbi may appreciate any time soon, and also indicated that China will "continue its expansionary fiscal policy" by maintaining appropriately loose monetary policy (translation: it is now next to impossible for the Chinese supertanker to steer off direct collision course with the bubble iceberg). He also noted that "The foundation for global economic recovery remains weak; financial risks have not been completely eliminated" and, most disturbingly, said that "trade protectionism is clearly reasserting itself." The ramification for US trade policy as a result of this admonition will likely continue to be made felt over the next 12 months. Yet in an odd moment of clarity, when discussing the domestic economy, Wen noted "latent risks in the banking and public finance sectors among the key challenges to economic growth, alongside now-standard warnings about industrial overcapacity and shortcomings in income distribution." As for the biggest question of how China will approach the USD-CNY relationship, Wen provided little clarity besides promising to "continue to improve the mechanism for setting the (yuan) exchange rate and keep it basically stable at a reasonable and balance level." As Market News notes, that wording, which is frequently trotted out in government statements, is identical to that contained in last year's report.

Other disclosures from Wen:

  • The government is targetting growth of 8% this year;
  • Consumer price inflation will be kept at around 8%;
  • The government is targeting new loans of CNY7.5 trillion, down from 2009's record CNY9.59 trillion: he also pointed out that credit policy will be adjusted to make sure money flows to those who should be receiving it, i.e., farmers and small businesses, and restricted to those that shouldn't, including energy-intensive industries and those experiencing overcapacity;
  • M2 growth in 2010 is targeted at 17%;

Also of note, is a report prepared by the Ministry of Finance which said that the fiscal deficit is planned to be CNY1.05 trillion, or 2.08% of GDP, compared to the 2009 deficit of 2.2% of GDP.

And to the benefit of Chinese skeptics, Wen warned that government will "crack down on excessive property speculation." Just how this will be accomplised in a largely accomodative monetary environment remains to be seen.