European leaders announced yesterday their plan to stabilize the Euro and avoid a potential debt crisis. Reportedly they received a helping hand from China. Pure benevolence, right? A straight business transaction, yes?
Well, they do want to make money. China is said to want “water-tight financial guarantees on its investments.” But it also apparently wants to muzzle European speech. According to Germany’s left-leaning Der Spiegel, one condition may be that European leaders stop criticizing China’s policy of keeping its currency artificially low. That is one of the conditions as laid out by Li Daokui, a member of China’s central bank monetary policy committee. “It is in China’s long-term and intrinsic interest to help Europe because they are our biggest trading partner,” Li told the Financial Times. “But…the last thing China wants to do is throw away the country’s wealth and be seen as just a source of dumb money.”
Should we really be surprised about this? China has in the past demonstrated that it will firmly protect its national and commercial interests overseas. And if Euro comes with hands wide open, we should not be surprised that they will use it as leverage to muzzle criticism. What this demonstrates, of course, is that debt and the need for help from foreign governments not only creates economic challenges–but political ones as well. China doesn’t believe in free speech at home. Why should they tolerate from foreign leaders if they don’t have to? This reality applies not only when Europe accepts their help, of course, but also when the United States does.
China is well positioned to help Europe with cash. They reportedly have $3.2 trillion in hard currency reserves–a quarter of which are already in Euros.