Secretary Geithner Has Them Rolling In The Aisles In Peking

Tim Geithner gets no respect. This from the Telegaph.co.uk:

In his first official visit to China since becoming Treasury Secretary, Mr Geithner told politicians and academics in Beijing that he still supports a strong US dollar, and insisted that the trillions of dollars of Chinese investments would not be unduly damaged by the economic crisis. Speaking at Peking University, Mr Geithner said: “Chinese assets are very safe.”

The comment provoked loud laughter from the audience of students. There are growing fears over the size and sustainability of the US budget deficit, which is set to rise to almost 13pc of GDP this year as the world’s biggest economy fights off recession. The US is reliant on China to buy many of the government bonds it is planning to issue but Beijing’s policymakers have expressed concern about the strength of the dollar and the value of their investments.

I’m sure it must have been some sort of translation error that invoked the laughter among the students.

Update: To be fair to Tim Geithner, there appears to be an alternate version of why the students were laughing. This one is from the WSJ Real Time Economics blog:

Students at Peking University warmly welcomed news that the new Treasury chief in the U.S. had studied Mandarin at their school almost 30 years ago (summer of 1981). They applauded when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who delivered a speech at the school Monday, spoke Mandarin and listened closely as the dean of one of the schools Zhou Qiren, described Geithner’s family as “all the friend to China.” (Not only had Geithner studied in China, but his Dad helped establish the Ford Foundation’s Beijing office years ago.)

But what the audience of mostly students and professors seemed to enjoy even more was the proof of his attendance — a picture Geithner’s former teacher presented after the speech she said was from Geithner’s summer at the university.

The Treasury secretary seemed shocked and sincerely surprised to hear his old professor suggest that a close friend, maybe even a girlfriend, was with him in the photo. But the same students who had just moments before grilled Geithner on the U.S. fiscal deficit, the auto bailout, and the state of the financial crisis broke out in laughter. The students also liked that Geithner spoke a Chinese phrase during his speech and suggested that he only studied “reasonably hard” as a student there.

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