China says it can’t use forex reserves to save Europe

Foreign currency reserves and gold minus exter...

BEIJING: Europe cannot expect China to use a big portion of its US$3.2 trillion foreign exchange reserves to rescue indebted nations, a top Chinese foreign ministry official said, Beijing‘s strongest rebuttal yet to suggestions it should bail out the eurozone.

Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying said at a forum the argument that China should rescue Europe did not stand and that Europeans might have misunderstood how China managed its reserves.

She did not explicitly rule out using part of China’s reserves for more targeted measures, but implied China was not going to ride in with a big chunk of its “savings” and bail out crisis-stricken Europe.

“We cannot use this money domestically to alleviate poverty,” Fu said. “We also can’t take this money abroad for development support.”

Economists estimate that Beijing has already invested a fifth of its reserves in euro assets.

While the size of China’s reserves is the largest in the world, analysts say two-thirds of that is locked up in dollar assets that cannot be sold, giving Beijing a more modest portion of about US$470bil to invest each year.

Fu said China’s reserves were akin to the country’s savings and that the 1997 Asian financial crisis taught Beijing how important reserves were to the nation.

China’s foreign ministry does not exert direct influence over how the country invests its foreign exchange reserves but can comment on that policy.

Fu said Beijing’s refusal to use its reserves to ease Europe’s debt woes did not count as a lack of support for the region, which was also China’s biggest export market.

“I say the idea that China should save Europe does not stand. What I mean is the money cannot be used this way,” Fu said. “China has never been absent from any international efforts to help Europe. We have always been an active participant, and a healthy particpant as well.”

As the owner of the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, China is one of the few governments with pockets deep enough to buy a sizeable portion of European government debt and help pull the region from its economic malaise. – Reuters

China says it can’t use forex reserves to rescue Europe

02-Dec-11, 8:41 PM | Agence France Presse

BEIJING – China’s vice foreign minister on Friday ruled out using the nation’s vast foreign exchange reserves to bail out Europe, as the debt-laden continent tries to stave off the risk of a massive default.

“The argument that China should rescue Europe does not stand,” vice foreign minister Fu Ying told an EU-China forum.

“We cannot use foreign reserves for… rescuing foreign countries. We need to ensure safety, liquidity and profit for the foreign reserves.”

European leaders have lobbied China, the world’s second largest economy, to help struggling eurozone countries by contributing to a bailout fund, but so far Beijing has not made a firm commitment.

The Asian powerhouse, which has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves at $3.2017 trillion, has said it is keen to seek more investment opportunities in Europe, but has held back from agreeing to contribute to the fund.

Fu pointed to China’s purchase of European bonds, increased imports and expanded investment in the continent, which would “create jobs and restore growth”.

But she insisted China was not seeking to use its considerable financial clout to exert power over the continent.

“China is no old-fashioned power or empire. China has no intention of seeking power through financial means,” she said.

China’s commerce minister Chen Deming said last month Beijing would lead an investment delegation to Europe next year, and the head of China’s sovereign wealth fund has said it is keen to invest in European infrastructure.

But some in Europe have expressed concern about the potential cost of accepting Beijing’s help.

In October, Francois Hollande, the Socialist candidate for next year’s French presidential elections, asked if China was really “riding to the rescue of the euro… without making any demands in return?”

Fu also reiterated China’s confidence in Europe, just as European leaders prepare to meet at a summit next week that some have billed as their last chance to restore the credibility of eurozone economic governance.

“We have reason to believe that Europe has the wisdom, capacity and resources to make it this time by accelerating adjustment and reform,” she said.

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Understanding our rights

Brave New World By AZMI SHAROM

Rights are not something to be played with. It is not a political tool to be bandied about. It is fundamental and inherent. It exists in us simply because we are civilised men and women.

RIGHTS are the weapons of the powerless. And just who are the powerless? Well, in my view, it is most of us.

Ordinary folks who either do not hold the reins of government machinery or have the means to control those who hold the reins.

That is why only those who are powerless or who have been powerless can truly appreciate rights.

We only have to look at history to see that to be true. The Magna Carta was created because the nobility of Britain felt powerless against the King.

The American Declaration of Independence takes the shape that it does because the founding fathers wanted to ensure that they would never again be under the yoke of a distant king.This image was selected as a picture of the we...Image via Wikipedia

Our own leaders, during the early days of our existence as a nation also understood this need for rights, having been ruled by an oppressive force more powerful than them.

Of course there are those with short memories who belittle rights when they have power, bemoan the lack of them when they lose power and belittle them again when they have power once more.

But then, there will always be the utterly unprincipled in any community.

The human race has evolved. We have values which prevent the strong simply taking what they want from the weak.

Our laws are in place so that we can be assured a person who is bigger than us can’t simply knock us out and take our wallets.

And just as we have laws to protect us against thieves and thugs, so too do we have principles which prevent the rulers from abusing us.

As a race we have come a long way from “only the strong will survive”. And that is due to the civilising of human kind.

Rights therefore are the current pinnacle of this civilising process. It indicates that we are civilised.

Related to human rights is democracy. When we choose our own leaders, we ensure that we are not led simply by someone who is going to force himself or herself onto us.

Once again, we see a principle which empowers the powerless.

This is why I care so much about human rights and democracy.

This is why I get furious when those who do not understand or choose not to understand, take my rights away.

That is why I work on the premise that we must have as much rights as possible.

Of course I understand there are limitations to everything, including rights, but those limitations must be made with the aspiration that a complete right is the ideal.

It is only with these aspirations in place will we ensure that whatever limitations imposed are the barest minimum and with the smallest effect on our rights.

Rights are not something to be played with. It is not a political tool to be bandied about. It is fundamental, it is inherent. It is not something that can be given for it exists in us simply because we are civilised men and women.

The powerful do not wish to see this.

It is up to us, the powerless, to remind them.

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Only Capitalists Can Save Capitalism

English: Harvard Business School, as seen from...Image via Wikipedia

Maggie Starvish

If capitalism was a stock, the market would appear rather bearish on its future.

Bank failures, economic crises, and middle-class riots across the globe appear symptomatic of large systemic weaknesses in the market system, highlighted by the 2008 global financial meltdown. Income inequality separating corporate leaders from their rank-and-file workers has become a hot-button issue in the upcoming presidential election. And in public opinion polls, business moguls are cushioned from the bottom of the reputation scale only by members of Congress. Fixes so far have largely eluded elected officials, government regulators, and tent city activists.

Capitalism at Risk: Rethinking the Role of BusinessBut there is one group of citizens with the power to make a difference: business leaders themselves, say Harvard Business School Professors Joseph L. Bower, Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard, and Lynn S. Paine, authors of Capitalism at Risk: Rethinking the Role of Business.

“Our book argues that if we don’t begin to address, in a systemic way, the issues and problems and the negative outcomes and challenges [of market capitalism], then we are likely to see a lot more movements like Occupy Wall Street,” says Leonard.

Capitalism at Risk grew out of preparations for Harvard Business School’s centennial celebration in 2008. Bower, Leonard, and Paine felt it important to identify key issues that HBS should focus on going into its next 100 years, so they organized a series of forums on four continents with top business leaders, many of whom were HBS alums. “We set up the forums as opportunities for candid discussion among peers,” says Paine.

The principal question asked of each participant was this: “If we stipulate that the system of market capitalism has been the source of remarkable economic growth, what are the prospects for continuing growth in the future? What aspects of the system at the level of firms, industries, nations, or multilateral institutions might cause serious difficulties?”

The principal response is summed in the book: “Market capitalism has proven to be a golden goose providing historically unimaginable economic benefits to many, and if we don’t look out, we may kill it.”

From prediction to fruition

Problems that forum participants cited included environmental degradation, trade breakdowns, and failure of the rule of law. Concerns over the lack of transparency into and oversight of the financial system were voiced by many. In all, 10 potential disruptors of the global market system were identified.

“One of the things we were told even before the economic crisis was that the financial system had grown to such a scale and was functioning in such a way that it was no longer necessarily lined up with the needs of the industrial system, or the way society wanted it to function,” says Bower. “And lo and behold, we now have a crisis that illustrates what they were concerned about.”

“If you believe that the problems ahead are likely to be very serious, and neither government nor business can address them, that doesn’t leave you with many options.”
—Lynn Paine

“Perhaps we should credit the participants in our forums for their prescience,” notes Paine, reflecting on an e-mail she received recently from a participant on how much the world had changed since 2007. “The question now is whether we can mobilize business leadership on a sufficient scale to make a difference.”

“Our view is the system could go, if companies don’t step up,” says Bower. “It’s companies that have the skill sets necessary to go from a vision to making something a reality.”

Considering the number of corporations whose annual revenue is larger than the GDP of many small countries, the proposition makes sense. The authors argue that the problems are systemic, and who better to attack huge issues than people who run small, medium, and huge organizations.

Bower, Leonard, and Paine are prepared to have their views challenged. Even some of the forum participants, says Leonard, “didn’t think what we are calling for is either appropriate for or likely to come from business and business leaders.” And while Leonard agrees that some of the criticisms are valid, “the alternative of having business sit this one out is too risky.”

Adds Paine: “Of course we recognize that there are serious obstacles to the view we recommend,” including a lack of structure, tools, and incentives within businesses to do the sort of work that’s needed, and a lack of skills and incentive on the part of business leaders to operate on the global political front. “But we see those as challenges to be overcome rather than fatal flaws in the idea. If you believe that the problems ahead are likely to be very serious, and if you believe that neither government nor business can address them, that doesn’t leave you with many options.”

“There is clearly political content to what we are suggesting,” says Bower. “We talk about the need for leaders of companies to develop skill sets that they might not have—a lot of our business leaders have not been brought up to be comfortable in dealing with politicians. So part of what we’re talking about is learning how to operate in the public arena without getting into trouble. It’s hard.”

Addressing the problems

HBS has made significant strides in preparing students to be the kind of leaders that the book calls for, says Leonard, noting as one example the required first-year MBA course Leadership and Corporate Accountability. “Where I think we still have far to go is in teaching the skills for operating in the high-conflict, low-authority zone outside your own firm. Most of what we teach is about how to optimize within your firm, where you tend to have a high level of authority and where there is general agreement on goals.

“Where I think we still have far to go is in teaching the skills for operating in the high-conflict, low-authority zone outside your own firm.”
—Dutch Leonard

“By contrast,” Leonard continues, “when our book calls on business leaders to exercise leadership outside their firms, we are inviting them to operate in a domain where they have little authority and where there is great conflict over what the most important goals are. The skills to do this involve what we might call small ‘p’ political skills—and we don’t teach nearly as much of that as we could and should, nor do we have many cases about business leaders operating in that high-conflict, low-authority domain.”

Giving students a broader perspective outside the HBS classroom is another possibility, such as pairing B-school students with other Harvard students who are studying similar big problems, says Paine, who cofounded and served for five years as course head of Leadership and Corporate Accountability.

“For example, I have in mind a course that would bring together students from HBS, Harvard Law School, and the Kennedy School to explore, as board members and as leadership teams of companies, what could be done … both through innovative business strategies and through innovative institutional arrangements.”

According to Paine, many HBS students share the concerns voiced in the book and aspire to the type of entrepreneurial leadership needed for reform. “It’s critical that we harness the energy and ideas our students bring to these challenges, and that we as a faculty help them develop the skills and capabilities needed to practice this kind of leadership.”

So even as the market system has created threats to its own sustainability, it can also reward enterprising companies of any size that can turn these problems into opportunities. The book provides examples of business efforts that promote social good without sacrificing profit: a mobile communications rollout in rural China that “extended the benefits of participating in the market system to millions of people” while increasing profits and growth at the country’s largest telecommunications firm; “a boutique asset-management firm that invests in companies whose business models are aligned with the needs of a sustainable global economy.”

But Capitalism at Risk leaves a lot of the heavy lifting in the hands of business leaders. “We’re pretty clear that we don’t have all the answers,” says Bower, “but we’re also pretty clear that we need action.”

The form that action takes remains to be seen. But it’s worth noting that while members of the “Occupy” movements may be retreating for the winter, the problems they have highlighted are likely to remain with us for some time.

About the author:Maggie Starvish is a writer based in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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We need to talk about capitalism, say CEOs

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We need to talk about capitalism, say CEOs

 Simon Mann
Professors from the Harvard Businees School have identified ten major threats to capitalism.Professors from the Harvard Businees School, above, have identified ten major threats to capitalism. Photo: Greg Newington

Three professors from the world’s pre-eminent business school have co-written a study that at first blush looks to fall more into the genre of horror story than business text.

But in identifying 10 powerful forces that threaten the existence of the capitalist system – the most successful engine of economic growth the world has known – the dons of the Harvard Business School appear to have drawn a line connecting the fears of the boardroom and those of the protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Income disparity, resource depletion and potentially cataclysmic climate change were recognised by CEOs in a series of conversations conducted by Harvard as among the potential ”disruptors” of global prosperity. The financial meltdown of 2008 and the Occupy movement are clear manifestations of those fears.

”And we would expect more [of the same],” says co-author Joseph Bower. ”Because people really feel outraged.”

Professor Bower and his colleagues note in their study the broad concerns of the 46 business thinkers brought together in forums on three continents, but by far the most widely held was ”the tendency of capitalism, as it currently functions, to produce extreme disparities of income and wealth”.

Said one unidentified Asian business leader: ”Herein lies a major challenge, because the world has become very much more prosperous as a result of market capitalism. The rich have become richer. The poor in most cases have become richer. But the gap between the rich and the poor has grown wider … There is the growing sense of being left out, even as people are getting better off.”

One European executive said: ”What was the good of capitalism? Was it the fact that we were building a very large, very well off – not wealthy but well off – middle class? We are not doing this any more.”

The Harvard project coincided with the Business School’s centenary. What better way to celebrate it than to examine the state of the system that had nurtured its own rise to prominence? By then, it had conferred nearly 56,000 MBAs on men and women, many of whom went on to head prominent companies in the US and around the world.

The school brought together chief executives and business leaders in 2007 and early 2008 for its series of discussions. They included Australia’s David Murray, the former Commonwealth Bank boss who is now chairman of the Future Fund.

Using its famous case-method approach to inquiry, it took as a starting point the then most recent World Bank growth projections and batted around the issues. Capitalism at Risk: Rethinking the role of business, just published, is the result.

Joining in the talks were executives such as Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric, John Elkann of Fiat and Bertrand Collomb of Lafarge.

That capitalism has delivered for billions is not at issue: in the last decades of the 20th century, 97 per cent of countries enjoyed increased wealth, according to the World Bank. But the executives cited as potential threats the powerful forces within financial markets, environmental degradation and political populism, terrorism and war, migration and pandemics.

”History tells us that when an awful lot of people are disenfranchised, they have no incentive to play by the rules, and given today’s communications availability, weaponry … that’s an issue we have to really think about,” one said.

Unsurprisingly, they back business, not government, to ameliorate strains on the system through innovation and activism. ”Good government is crucial, to be sure,” write the Harvard professors. ”But government … needs the support and engagement of business to function effectively.”

In the US, the argument for higher taxes on the wealthy has coalesced around billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has become a poster boy for the Obama’s administration’s campaign to raise revenues, resisted by Republicans.

”Finding a way to mobilise the entire relevant business community – and others – to help support the needed taxes simply makes sense,” the Harvard dons conclude.

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