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  • So the U.S.

  • China trade dispute is essentially about

  • fairness. The U.S.

  • has long complained that they're not treated

  • fairly by the Chinese that it costs too much to

  • send American products into China.

  • And along with that the US does not charge enough

  • for Chinese products that come into the US.

  • Now this has been a topic of conversation for a

  • long time it's gone through multiple presidents,

  • through administrations, through many Congresses.

  • The thing is, nobody's ever really done very much

  • about it.

  • There have been a few measures here and

  • there, some tariffs on Chinese

  • products when they've tried to dump certain

  • products into the U.S.

  • but nothing as strenuous and nothing as concrete

  • and nothing as serious as what the Trump

  • administration has done with the tariffs

  • that it's leveled against Chinese goods.

  • Now of course the Chinese have countered with

  • their own tariffs but their retaliatory measures

  • are somewhat limited in scope.

  • So the Chinese basically have three ways that they

  • can retaliate against American tariffs.

  • One of course is that they can level their own

  • tariffs and they have done that.

  • Number two is that they can make it more

  • difficult for U.S.

  • companies to operate in China.

  • Of course the big one that comes to mind there is

  • Apple. It could really make Apple's life

  • miserable through a whole host of measures.

  • The third thing that they can do, and this is

  • what we call the nuclear option, is that they can

  • either stop buying U.S.

  • treasuries or they can actually start selling

  • U.S. Treasuries back into the market.

  • Now the reason why this is such an important

  • thing and why we call it the nuclear option is

  • because China is the largest holder in the world

  • of US debt.

  • It's got over a trillion dollars, close to $1.1

  • trillion dollars in U.S.

  • bonds, notes, bills, those those sort of things.

  • And the U.S.

  • counts on China to buy up its debt.

  • Of course that's very important with the U.S.

  • running nearly trillion dollar deficits which are

  • expected to continue as far as the eye can see.

  • So if China is not a big player in that market it

  • could make life very difficult for the U.S..

  • The idea of China going to the nuclear option is

  • something that's been framed in the local media

  • there, which of course is its state-run media,

  • where they've talked about scholars studying this

  • issue.

  • Now that's a very calculated type of language

  • where they say, 'OK we're just going to study

  • this. We're going to look at this.'

  • It's basically saber rattling, is what it really

  • comes down to.

  • They want the US to know that this is something

  • that's on the table.

  • Everybody knows that the chances of China doing

  • this aren't really good.

  • But as the dispute goes on and if the dispute

  • continues to go on, which it's likely to do, it

  • becomes more and more of a possibility where

  • China has to say look we can't match you dollar

  • for dollar tariff wise. That's

  • the big thing for them, because the U.S.

  • obviously imports far more goods from China than

  • the other way around.

  • So if this continues to go on, if the stakes get

  • higher, if feelings continue to get hurt, it

  • becomes more and more of a viable possibility for

  • China to step in and stop buying U.S.

  • Treasuries or sell them outright.

  • The big thing for China is that if it does take

  • this type of nuclear option it will not go

  • unscathed, if it does something like

  • that. Because, look, China needs to hold U.S.

  • Treasuries.

  • They're still the most liquid instrument in the

  • world as far as fixed income goes.

  • They have they carry a pretty decent yield on

  • them. It also would weaken the U.S.

  • dollar, which would make U.S.

  • multinationals stronger.

  • And it would just generally cause a crisis of

  • confidence within the world that China is

  • stepping away from this market.

  • So there is damage that could be done significant

  • damage to the Chinese economy if it would step

  • away from the market.

  • Now of course that doesn't mean they won't do it.

  • China is under a different political system than

  • the U.S.

  • President Trump and Congress, they have to answer

  • to the American people.

  • The way the Chinese government, the way their

  • political system is set up, President Xi does not

  • have to answer on the same level that President

  • Trump does. So they can go ahead and they can

  • sustain a little bit of

  • damage. Of course, China's economy is still a

  • very strongly growing economy.

  • So they have a little bit of wiggle room here,

  • but not a whole lot.

So the U.S.

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Why China's US debt holdings Are Its 'Nuclear Option' In Trump's Trade War

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    Julia Kuo posted on 2019/07/10
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