中国外汇储备跌破3万亿美元,这意味着什么?

编辑:给力英语新闻 更新:2017年2月11日 作者:纽约时报双语新闻(By KEITH BRADSHER)

这是相当大一笔资金——但它正在萎缩。

中国的中央银行周二表示,该国今年1月的外汇储备金降至2.998万亿美元。尽管相比于去年12月降幅不大,但依然跌落了在心理上非常重要的3万亿美元水平线。三年前,这个数字是将近4万亿美元。

外汇储备上一次达到3万亿美元时,也就是2011年初,中国经济正以快得多的速度增长——中央银行的外汇储备也在迅速增长。

中国的外汇储备是什么?

中国对人民币的币值严加控制。这意味着数年来,在世界上的巨额资金涌入这个国家购买它生产的玩具、鞋、电子产品和其他商品之时,也令人民币的币值保持了稳定。

在全球金融规则之下,那样规模的资金流入应该推高人民币相对于其他货币,比如美元的价值。但相反,中国避免让人民币升值,以此作为帮助其制造商在国外竞争的方式。实现这一点的机制比较复杂,但这个过程导致中国持有大量以其他货币计价的资金。

在2014年6月的巅峰时期,中国外汇储备总额曾接近4万亿美元。在中国内部,外汇储备一直被看作动荡时期的金融缓冲工具。但它们在华盛顿等地方激发深深的不满——包括竞选时期的特朗普。

其数额为何在减少?

在世界其他地方,中国依然享有巨额贸易顺差。因为出口额超过进口额,每月有400至600亿美元资金流入这个国家。但中国的经济增长已经明显放缓,从而改变了动态。

有关中国经济的担忧正促使企业和家庭将资金移至海外,进行投资或保管。如果中国央行不采取任何措施,这种资金净外流将导致人民币相对于美元贬值。

北京想稳定人民币的币值,让资金留在境内。中国的中央银行每月用数十亿美元的外汇储备维持人民币币值,减慢其贬值的速度。如果人民币开始剧烈贬值,许多家庭和企业很有可能会急着将资金挪到海外,将损失降到最小。逐渐减少的外汇储备额是一个迹象,表明中国正在努力将资金留在国内,以维持人民币的价值。

3万亿美元不依然是一个大数目吗?

没错。外汇储备没有降到让北京或其他国家敲响警钟的地步。而且中国还有其他可以依靠的财富储备,比如大量的储蓄。

但这并不意味着中国就脱离了风险。中国依然需要相当多的储备,以防遭遇金融困境。它是世界上仅次于美国的第二大经济体。如果有更多中国家庭和企业试图将人民币换成美元,可能会让中央银行难以维持人民币的价值。

从更广泛的层面讲,逐渐减少的储备多少说明了中国经济的走向。它显示出,世界涌入中国投资建厂或公寓楼——一般而言是为从中分一杯羹——的时代正在过去。

这对美国来说意味着什么?

中国的货币问题是一个难解之谜,特朗普政府还没能解开。基于纯粹的贸易流通,人民币的价值相对于美元依然偏低。每个月,当中国从美国进口价值1美元的东西,就会往那里出口价值4美元的商品。中国的人民币在2015年8月的贬值让批评中国的美国人士更加气恼,他们认为中国在操纵自己的货币。

但从另一方面看,国际货币基金组织(International Monetary Fund)等机构认为人民币价值合理。有关人民币的紧张关系也让中国处在尴尬的位置,尽管北京在努力避免人民币进一步贬值,但特朗普依然指责中国让自己的货币保持在不公平的弱势水平。

翻译:常青

How China Lost $1 Trillion

It’s a lot of money — but it’s shrinking.

On Tuesday, China’s central bank said its foreign exchange reserves slipped to $2.998 trillion in January. While they dropped only a modest amount from December, the fall still put the reserves below the psychologically important $3 trillion level. Three years ago, they were at nearly $4 trillion.

When they were last at $3 trillion, in early 2011, China’s economy was growing at a much faster pace — and the central bank’s foreign-exchange reserves were growing rapidly.

What are China’s foreign exchange reserves?

China keeps a firm grip on the value of its currency, the renminbi. For years, that meant keeping the renminbi steady as vast amounts of the world’s money flooded into the country to buy the toys, shoes, electronics and other goods it makes.

Under the rules of global finance, that flood of money should have driven up the value of the renminbi against other currencies, like the dollar. Instead, China kept the renminbi from rising as a way to help its manufacturers compete abroad. The mechanics of how it did that are complicated, but the process resulted in China holding large sums of money denominated in other currencies.

At the peak, in June 2014, the reserves totaled nearly $4 trillion. Inside China, the foreign exchange reserves have been seen as a financial cushion for times of trouble. But they have generated deep frustration in places like Washington — including from President Trump during the campaign.

Why are they now falling?

China is still running huge trade surpluses with the rest of the world, with $40 billion to $60 billion a month sluicing into the country as exports exceed imports. But the country’s economic growth has slowed considerably, and that changes the dynamics.

Worries about China’s economy are prompting companies and families to send their money out of the country for investment or safekeeping. If the Chinese central bank did nothing, the net outflow of money would cause the renminbi to weaken against the dollar.

Beijing wants to stabilize the value of the renminbi and keep money within its borders. China’s central bank has been spending billions of dollars from its reserves each month to prop up the renminbi and slow its weakening. If the renminbi were to start falling sharply, many families and companies would most likely race to move their money out of China to minimize their losses. The dwindling reserves are a sign of China’s efforts to keep money in the country by protecting the renminbi’s value.

Isn’t $3 trillion still a lot of money?

Yes it is. Foreign reserves have not fallen to levels that should sound alarm bells in Beijing or other capitals. And China has other stores of wealth it can rely on, like a vast pool of savings.

But that does not mean China is out of danger. China still needs considerable reserves in case it runs into financial trouble. It has the world’s second-largest economy, after the United States. If many more Chinese families and companies try to swap more renminbi for dollars, that could swamp the central bank’s ability to prop up the renminbi.

More broadly, the dwindling reserves say something about the direction of the Chinese economy. It shows that the era when the world rushed to invest in China to build factories or apartment buildings — generally, to get a piece of the action — is fading.

What does this mean for the United States?

China’s currency is an enigma with which the Trump administration has not yet come to grips. Based purely on trade flows, the renminbi is still undervalued relative to the dollar. Each month, China exports about $4 worth of goods to the United States for each $1 of imports. China’s devaluation of the renminbi in August 2015 further upset American critics of China who contend that China is rigging its currency.

But by other measures, groups like the International Monetary Fund consider the renminbi fairly valued. Tensions over the renminbi also put China in an odd position, as Mr. Trump criticizes China for keeping its currency unfairly weak, even as Beijing tries to keep it from weakening further.