Do The Chinese Prefer Copper Over Dollars?

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard speculates that China is buying metals in surprising volume in order to reduce its dollar dependency. According to Evans-Pritchard the country is buying much more copper and other metals than normal commercial purposes would require. Here is his reasoning:

One thing is clear: Beijing suspects that the US Federal Reserve is engineering a covert default on America’s debt by printing money. Premier Wen Jiabao issued a blunt warning last month that China was tiring of US bonds. “We have lent a huge amount of money to the US, so of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets,” he said.

This is slightly disingenuous. China has the world’s largest reserves – $1.95 trillion, mostly in dollars – because it has been holding down the yuan to boost exports. This mercantilist strategy has reached its limits.

The beauty of recycling China’s surplus into metals instead of US bonds is that it kills so many birds with one stone: it stops the yuan rising, without provoking complaints of currency manipulation by Washington; metals are easily stored in warehouses, unlike oil; the holdings are likely to rise in value over time since the earth’s crust is gradually depleting its accessible ores. Above all, such a policy safeguards China’s industrial revolution, while the West may one day face a supply crisis.

Lots of speculation in his thoughts but at the same time there is some logic. If he’s right, who are we going to get to finance our recovery?

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