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Energy & Economics
Concept of the trade war between the USA and China.

How to better equip the U.S. DFC to compete with China

by Andrew Herscowitz

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français When U.S. President Biden and Chinese President Xi met in November 2023, Biden remarked that the countries must “ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.” A recent ODI report Hedging belts, de-risking roads: Sinosure’s role in China’s overseas finance illustrates the scale of the competition and reveals how one of China’s less-known institutions – Sinosure – has been giving China the edge. This blog offers some thoughts about how the U.S., through its U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) can better compete. Competing requires resources, but really not as much as you think Competing credibly requires money, dedicated staff, and creativity. It requires studying the competition. Infrastructure development requires low-cost financing, capacity-building, and getting everyone aligned. As Sinosure has demonstrated again and again, deploying guarantees and insurance – particularly from official financing – can de-risk overseas investment, reducing costs of finance and mobilising commercial investment from the private sector. When it comes to infrastructure, China has a far more robust, albeit imperfect, track record when compared to others. The U.S. and its G7 partners have not been much of a match for China in financing infrastructure worldwide. The G7 could successfully compete with China, and doing so does not have to cost hundreds of billions of dollars. The U.S. Congress, despite its strong desire to counter BRI, has yet to appropriate the resources necessary to compete credibly in a battle of influence against China in developing countries. There’s been plenty of rhetoric, repurposing of existing programs and resources into initiatives like the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) and the Global Gateway. Each time the U.S. launches a new overseas economic development initiative, however, it rarely dedicates sufficient resources to help it scale – examples include the Partnership for Growth, Power Africa, Prosper Africa, and PGII. When it was fully funded, Power Africa, which coordinated the efforts of 12 U.S. government agencies, helped 120 power projects in Africa get across the finish line in just a few years, building a strong brand for the U.S. in Africa for economic development for the first time in decades. Then the U.S. cut Power Africa’s budget by 75% because of political shifts. The initiative stalled in its progress on new infrastructure, while still helping 200 million Africans get access to more reliable electricity. PGII, which has no dedicated budget, involves a handful of smart people working hard to deliver on a G7 promise of $600 billion in global infrastructure by 2025. Other than the Lobito Corridor project, it has not been clear to date what PGII is able to deliver at scale in Africa without additional resources. That could be about to change, though. The State Department just requested another $4 billion from Congress to up its game against China, which should help tremendously if that funding is secured to support PGII. Why Sinosure has been such an effective tool for China, despite its low margins BRI has not been particularly innovative, but it’s been steady. Sinosure, along with other Chinese export credit agencies, offers highly favorable terms and longer-term finance – this approach has well suited Global South governments in advancing their development and political objectives. While some projects have been problematic, Chinese creditors have provided the low-cost, patient capital at scale that many countries need for long-term productive infrastructure investment. But as the report shows, this approach has challenged established regimes governing the use of public money (link to blog 2). Sinosure insurance covers non-payment up to 95% of the insured equity or debt for up to 20 years, but most OECD Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) only provide 85% coverage for up to 10 years – though this policy soon will soon change [link to blog 2] Sinosure can work anywhere, except where there’s a live conflict or in cases of repayment arrears. By contrast, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has a list of over 100 countries where it cannot do business. Sinosure’s premiums max out at 7% of the total debt servicing cost of a project, making it relatively cost-effective. In this aspect, it is surprisingly transparent. DFC’s fees and costs are numerous and opaque, with DFC passing some of its own costs on to its clients. By the end of 2022, Sinosure had provided over $1.3 trillion-worth of insurance on export and investment, with a quarter of this going only to BRI countries. In 2022 alone, it supported a total portfolio of $900 billion through its insurance for over 170,000 clients, of which $80bn went to overseas investment and long-term finance, which mostly supports projects in infrastructure such as power, transportation, construction, telecoms and shipping. It received a total net insurance premium of $1.9 billion and paid out $1.5 billion in insurance claims. Despite its significant payouts, however, Sinosure continues to earn a modest profit of $102 million – not much of a margin, but enough to propel China’s global leadership on trade and infrastructure development.     By contrast, DFC’s current total portfolio-wide exposure is $41 billion, with just over $9.3 billion committed in fiscal year 2023 for 132 transactions – of which only around $3.5bn of this was for guarantees and risk insurance. DFC has many of the same tools available to it as the Chinese government, and DFC is not even legally required to earn a return on its investments. Yet DFC has not made full use of its capital resources and has not deployed its capacity for risk-mitigation finance in the same way. An unleashed DFC could make the U.S. more competitive It’s not too late for the U.S. and others to compete. The U.S. has an opportunity to further change how it conducts business to compete with China, while promoting sustainable development. DFC is starting to flex its competitive muscles with its own insurance product, recently using political risk insurance to support a $1.6 billion debt-for-nature swap in Ecuador and another $500 million debt-for-nature swap in Gabon, which support broader debt relief efforts, as well as channelling money towards climate and conservation goals. Moreover, those deals come at a very low cost to the U.S. government given DFC’s pricing models. DFC is up for reauthorisation in 2025. It has both foreign policy and development mandates. In a previous blog, we laid out 10 recommendations about how DFC could be more effective in achieving its development mandate. Here are 9 recommendations to help DFC be more effective in competing with China and achieving its foreign policy mandate: 1. Spend some money and spend it right All it took for Sinosure’s expansion in the early 2010s was a capital injection of $3 billion. To make its financial institutions just as competitive, the U.S. only needs to commit a few extra billion dollars of appropriated resources per year, just as State Department has proposed, not hundreds of billions. Sinosure, with its somewhat loose investment criteria, still managed to earn over $100 million profit on a $900 billion portfolio in 2022. Even if DFC were to spend $1 billion/year of additional budgetary resources – for the purpose of leveling the playing field with China and providing developing countries with the type of inexpensive financing they need – that could be money well spent for the U.S. taxpayer. That money could cover legal fees that DFC currently passes on to clients. It could be deployed through innovative instruments: to take on some of the currency risk on strategic transactions, to cover first loss on strategic investments, or to provide technical assistance that does not need to get repaid–comparative advantages that Chinese financial institutions still sorely lack. That funding also could be used, simply, to reduce interest rates and fees, at a time when borrowing costs for lower-income countries have risen astronomically. 2. Structure deals to outcompete China Encourage DFC to structure transactions to use its funding to maximize competition with China in a way that promotes a more level playing field. DFC should not crowd out competitively tendered and transparent private sector investment, but where inexpensive or even concessional DFC co-financing might help the private sector out-compete opaque Chinese investment, DFC should be equipped to support those projects. 3. Don’t obsess over returns Even though DFC is not legally required to earn a return on a portfolio-wide basis, most members of Congress expect DFC to be revenue neutral to the U.S. Treasury. If members of Congress would adjust their return expectations even slightly, DFC could significantly advance its development and foreign policy goals. Effective development and foreign policy are not free – especially when competing with China. Even earning back $.95 on the dollar on a portfolio-wide basis would be a significant leverage of 1:20 of appropriated resources to private investment – giving DFC broad flexibility to structure deals that prioritise development impact and foreign policy. 4. Remove DFC’s limits Eliminate ceilings on DFC financing – including the $1 billion transaction limit, the $10 billion annual portfolio limit, and the $60 billion total portfolio exposure. It really doesn’t cost anything to do this. It’s like raising its credit card limit. 5. Let DFC work anywhere when necessary Give DFC the authority to determine the countries where it can do business on a case-by-case basis, depending on what the foreign policy and development priorities are. DFC should be required to continue to prioritize investments in low and lower-middle income countries, but it should have flexibility to respond quickly and selectively anywhere that doing so will credibly advance a compelling U.S. national security interest, such as financing a strategic port or lithium processing. To prevent DFC from sliding into becoming just a national security tool, abandoning its development mandate, DFC should be required to clearly articulate the compelling national security interests of projects and should provide a detailed report to Congress each year on its investments in upper-middle income and high-income countries to explain these interests (even classified, if necessary). 6. Empower DFC to support “nearshoring” DFC can help the U.S. diversify its supply chains and reduce dependencies on China. To encourage companies to move operations out of China and into the Americas (if operating in the U.S. is not commercially viable), give DFC broader authority to support strategic transactions in the region. 7. Make it easier for DFC to support equity investments in strategic infrastructure When DFC takes an equity position in a company or an investment fund, it gets a seat at the ownership table. That allows DFC to drive decisions regarding sourcing of goods and services (i.e., making sure contracts do not always go to Chinese companies). Investing in equity funds that develop and finance a portfolio of infrastructure projects is an effective way for DFC to increase and spread its strategic influence -- except that DFC often struggles to make these types of investments because U.S. legal requirements make DFC a slow and clunky, and hence, an unattractive investment partner. DFC needs flexibility to bypass some of these requirements. 8. Help DFC scale its risk insurance instrument For years, DFC has been hugely innovative in deploying its insurance products to leverage capital from others. DFC used its political risk insurance tool to crowd in private investment in Ukraine, and to catalyze pioneering debt-for-nature swaps worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Ecuador and Belize. But according to recent reports, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget has been threatening to start treating insurance investments like guarantee instruments from a budgeting standpoint. This will make it more expensive for DFC to deploy this tool. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? As we’ve shown, one of the main factors behind China’s competitiveness abroad is through Sinosure’s expansive use of its insurance tool: OMB’s changes will make it more expensive and difficult for the U.S. to scale its own. OMB needs to read the room. We’re not going to suddenly balance the U.S. budget by tinkering with a formula that has worked for decades. Let DFC do more of what it does well. 9. Help speed DFC up Before committing any transaction over $10 million, DFC is required to notify Congress in advance. This “Congressional notification” requirement provides a valuable extra level of oversight to ensure that DFC does not doing anything out-of-whack with Congressional priorities. But the process slows DFC down, when Chinese financiers are known for their speed. Even though DFC only is required to “notify” Congress of its deals, and not seek “approval,” practically and politically speaking nobody wants to run afoul of any one of the 535 members of Congress. Consequently, DFC rarely moves forward on a project until it can resolve the concerns of members of Congress. DFC needs to work with Congress to come up with a reasonable alternative to the Congressional notification process that balances speed with continued close collaboration with Congress. In addition, DFC’s Board can help speed things up by focusing its efforts on high level policy guidance instead of individual transactions. The Board should delegate more decision making on individual deals to DFC’s CEO. It makes no sense for the Secretary of State, who chairs DFC’s Board, to dig into a $20 million investment into a healthcare fund, not to mention the hundreds of State Department staff with little development finance experience who review the documentation before it goes to the Secretary with a recommendation for a vote. U.S. taxpayers probably would prefer to have the State Department focus on resolving the Middle East conflict. From the perspective of many Global South countries, this competition between the G7 countries and China is not inherently bad if it brings them more desperately needed resources and improves the quality of their infrastructure. The U.S. could be more competitive if it empowered its development finance professionals to use DFC’s tools the way they were designed to be used. DFC must be properly resourced with enough people and enough money to allow it to grow its portfolio. While development impact remains the key priority for DFC, delivering for the needs of partner countries is what also will deliver long-term influence. That is how the U.S. can compete – and all at relatively low cost to the U.S. taxpayer.

Energy & Economics
The Cambodian government building

Reality tempers Cambodia’s renewed economic optimism

by Heidi Dahles

Only days after Cambodia’s recently elected national assembly endorsed Hun Manet as the country’s new prime minister, the young leader revealed his vision for the next 25 years of economic growth and prosperity. Cambodia is aspiring to become a high-income country by 2050. To make this happen, Manet released his Pentagonal Strategy, centring on the five objectives of sustained economic growth, more and better employment, human capital development, diversification of the economy and increased competitiveness. For those who have been advocating sweeping reforms to Cambodia’s economy, the new strategic objectives comprise all the right catchwords. But it remains uncertain whether the ambitious new strategy will help Cambodia reach its targets. Despite GDP forecasts for 2023 not living up to expectations, the Cambodian government forecasts 6.6 per cent GDP growth in 2024. The Asian Development Bank and International Monetary Fund downgraded their 2023 economic growth projections to 5.3 per cent, down from 5.8 per cent in April 2023, while the World Bank projects 5.4 per cent growth, down from 5.5 per cent in May 2023. The minor adjustments were made in response to global geopolitical tensions and a worldwide economic slowdown, as well as the country’s structural issues, which include limited productivity and competitiveness, a lack of economic diversification and dependence on a small number of external markets. The government’s optimistic growth projection for 2024 is based on the anticipated revival of key sectors including garment manufacturing. Cambodia’s garment sector showed continuing decline throughout 2023 but is expected to surge by around 8 per cent in 2024. For Manet’s pentagonal ambitions to become a reality, Cambodia must diversify its product range, upgrade its production capacity and productivity and process resources at home instead of exporting them. The garment sector is not conducive to such transformations. The sector is already on life support — a tax break is in place for garment factories until the end of 2025 — but a continued reliance on garment manufacturing also exacerbates Cambodia’s economic vulnerability. Primarily a cut, make and trim industry employing low-skilled labour, garment manufacturing relies on the import of raw materials sourced from other Asian countries, predominantly China. It exports to the major economies where Cambodian products enjoy increasingly precarious preferential treatment under the European Union’s Everything But Arms scheme. To move Cambodia beyond being a cheap labour hub, the Pentagonal Strategy outlines a comprehensive makeover of three sectors identified as the engines of future economic growth — agriculture, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and tourism. With nearly 70 per cent of Cambodian households depending directly on agriculture, an overhaul of this sector is long overdue. The new strategic objectives bolster agribusiness to better serve Cambodia’s export markets. The turn to ‘smart farming’ advances local processing of Cambodian crops and high-value products instead of high-volume cash crops. Loans have also been made available for agribusiness and are being directed to ‘economic poles’ spread across the country. The transformation of over 500,000 MSMEs in Cambodia is a core agenda under the new strategic plan. MSMEs closely entwined with agribusiness and digitisation will have access to a new loan scheme established in partnership with the private sector and Wing Bank. Efforts will also be made to integrate the informal sector into the formal economy under the National Strategy for Informal Development 2023–2028, encouraging informal businesses to register and receive benefits such as penalty waivers, tax incentives and skills training. Tourism, heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, is forecasted to bolster GDP as international arrivals, particularly from China, begin to surge. Foreign tourists are returning to Cambodia, with 4.4 million arriving in the first 10 months of 2023. But the rising numbers have not generated the desired income, as most of the arrivals are low-spending visitors from neighbouring countries. Crowds from China are not as anticipated despite major efforts including the new Siem Reap airport operating direct flights to and from a variety of Chinese destinations, the reintroduction of Chinese package tours and the launch of the China Ready program. Efforts to diversify the tourism sector are ongoing, with India and Indonesia identified as likely markets for outbound tourism. The Ministry of Tourism is also implementing a new tourism strategy and action plan with a focus on cultural heritage, coastal and eco-tourism. As the new government pushes economic reforms with vigour, old habits die hard. International attention was recently drawn to a new investigation by Amnesty International into the 2022 evictions of 10,000 families making a living on the premises of the Angkor Archaeological Park. The Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia’s biggest tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage site, is pivotal to the new tourism action plan. While the Cambodian government claims these families were squatters causing overdevelopment at the complex, the report revealed that the evicted families were relocated to a remote site lacking infrastructure, jeopardising their livelihoods. Similarly, the voluntary registration of informal businesses under the new development strategy was temporarily suspended due to pushback from small business owners concerned about the regulatory burden imposed by the measure. The economic reforms outlined in the Pentagonal Strategy are long overdue and will have beneficial impacts on Cambodia’s socioeconomic development. But as Cambodia’s new leadership pursues growth, it should consider that even well-intentioned interventions can have detrimental bearings on people’s livelihoods and may be reminiscent of past injustices suffered at the hands of authorities. This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2023 in review and the year ahead.

Energy & Economics
Cargo ship on Pacific Ocean Cost

UK joins Asia-Pacific trade bloc

by Marina Strezhneva

At the end of March, the negotiations that started in June 2021 on the accession of the United Kingdom to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) were successfully concluded, reflecting radical changes in British trade priorities after Brexit. More broadly, this move by London undoubtedly confirms the special importance that the Indo-Pacific region has acquired in the concept of "Global Britain" and in its subsequent relevant updates. The signing ceremony is scheduled for July 2023, for which the trade ministers of the participating countries and the United Kingdom will meet in Auckland (New Zealand). As a result of London's accession, this bloc will surpass the EU in terms of the combined population of its constituent countries. However, unlike the European Union, which the United Kingdom, on the contrary, left, the CPTPP does not have - to the satisfaction of British Eurosceptics - its own court like the EU Court of Justice, or a supranational budget. The union operates as a multinational trade agreement. An important obstacle that hindered reaching an agreement more quickly was London's refusal to weaken national food standards. But in the end, Ottawa (Canada) backed down on calls for London to lift the ban on importing beef with growth hormones. Beijing has also applied for membership in the CPTPP following London (the Chinese application is dated September 16, 2021, but negotiations have not yet begun). However, with London's accession as a full member of the agreement, China's chances of joining the bloc look somewhat weaker, as London is likely to obtain veto power on this issue. It is possible that they will use this veto under the pretext of ensuring higher trade standards within the agreement (including issues related to ecology and food safety). In any case, as It is known, the current British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refers to China as a "systemic challenge", which London intends to respond to with "dynamic pragmatism." Currently, the CPTPP includes 11 states (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam), none of which are European. These countries collectively account for 13% of global GDP. The new partnership replaced the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement of 2016 with 12 participants, after former US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement in 2017. In 2020, the 11 countries of the CPTPP accounted for 8.4% of goods and services exported from the United Kingdom. In turn, 6.8% of imports to the United Kingdom came from these countries. The terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership eliminate unnecessary barriers to mutual trade of services by opening financial markets and reducing obstacles to cross-border investment, facilitating data exchange, increasing business mobility, and ensuring regulatory transparency. All of this will support the British government's plans to turn the country into a global technology and service hub, strengthen semiconductor and critical mineral supply chains to produce electric vehicles and wind turbines.London already has trade agreements with most members of this trading bloc, but now these relationships can deepen, and 99% of British goods exported to the bloc countries will be subject to zero import tariffs. Tariffs on imports of Peruvian bananas, Vietnamese rice, crab sticks from Singapore, and Malaysian palm oil into the UK will be reduced (this is a controversial issue that has sparked discussion in the UK, as the production of palm oil, as ecologists point out, leads to deforestation of tropical forests). At the same time, according to assessments by the British government itself, joining the CPTPP is expected to add no more than 0.08% per year to the country's economic growth in the long term (while the slowdown in growth due to Brexit is estimated at 4%). Many politicians and trade experts rightfully point out that participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not capable of compensating for the economic losses that the UK is experiencing due to its departure from the EU. Moreover, due to differences in its rules and standards from European regulations, Britain's accession will prevent it from returning to the European Union in case of a change of priorities. In other words, this agreement is like driving an additional wedge into the relationship between London and Brussels, which are just starting to improve. It is worth remembering in this regard that it was Liz Truss, a former trade minister in Boris Johnson's cabinet and one of the main advocates of independence from the EU, who submitted the British application to join the CPTPP. So far, for London, it is not so much a direct economic, but rather a strategic and symbolic acquisition, firstly due to the rapid growth (according to some estimates, up to 65% by 2030) in the number of middle-class consumers in a dynamically developing region, committed to innovation, and secondly, because of the fact that in the foreseeable future, mid-ranking trading powers such as Thailand and South Korea, which have already submitted applications, are planning to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Membership in the TPP is becoming more important for Britain due to the unattainability of a large trade agreement with the United States and the crisis in the World Trade Organization, which is currently unable to firmly enforce the rules of global trade. The matter is not limited to trade alone as London's foreign policy is clearly shifting towards the Indo-Pacific region. In this sense, Australia and Japan, concerned about economic pressure from China and its military ambitions, see Great Britain as a natural ally in opposing Beijing. It is assumed that stronger economic ties will lead to the strengthening of geostrategic alliances. Due to the high dependence of countries such as Chile on Beijing, which is the largest trading partner and main investor for Chileans, Britain's participation in the CPTPP, according to London's opinion, will contribute to the establishment of necessary connections that are seen by Britain's partners in the region as an attractive alternative to ties with China.

Energy & Economics
Tourist exchange rates at a streetside booth as the Thai Baht falls for the 7th week on June 9, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand

Strong dollar snowballs across Asia

by Brad W. Setser

The dollar’s strength is placing pressure on economies around the world, including in developing Asia. What makes this bout of dollar strength unique is that the stress is not limited to Asia’s developing economies. Asian economies are diverse and the direct financial impact of dollar strength varies. Some regional economies have significant foreign currency debts and limited foreign currency reserves. Unsurprisingly, these economies are in financial trouble. Sri Lanka defaulted on its bonds earlier in the year and is now trying to restructure its external debt. Pakistan has had to seek an emergency financing package from the International Monetary Fund, backstopped with pledges of additional support from both China and the Gulf. Bangladesh has proactively sought out IMF financing in the face of a terms of trade shock. Laos is, in all probability, relying on the continued forbearance of China’s policy banks to manage its unsustainable debt loads. All these countries are struggling to pay for imports of oil and natural gas. A broader set of Asian economies have relatively strong foreign currency balance sheets and are not at risk of immediate financial distress. Many have been able to rely on their local currency bond markets to finance fiscal deficits, limiting their direct financial vulnerability to swings in the dollar. India is in a much stronger position than during the 2013–14 ‘taper’ tantrum. It started 2022 with US$650 billion in foreign reserves, more than double the US$250 billion it held in 2012. The Indian government’s external debt, primarily to the multilateral development banks, only totalled US$125 billion. Thailand’s government started 2022 with over US$250 billion in foreign exchange reserves — or over 50 per cent of its GDP — while owing a bit over US$30 billion to external creditors. Other countries have more subtle strengths. For example, a substantial share of Indonesia’s US$80 billion in international sovereign bonds are denominated in yen. At the same time, balance sheet resilience is not sufficient to insulate a country’s broader economy from the impacts of a strong dollar. Even countries that have little to fear financially worry about the impact of currency weakness on households’ costs of living. There has been little correlation to date between the extent of currency depreciation across the main Asian currencies and the underlying strength of countries’ foreign currency balance sheets. The currencies of advanced Asian economies have actually depreciated more than the currencies of developing Asian economies. Japan — with plenty of reserves, significant foreign assets in its government pension fund and insurance companies that are structurally ‘long’ dollars — has experienced the largest depreciation. Taiwan and South Korea have followed. Meanwhile India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have experienced smaller depreciations. The reason for this is simple. Up until Japan’s heavy intervention in late September 2022, lower income Asian economies had been more willing to defend their currencies through a combination of rate increases and foreign reserve sales. There are signs that this is changing. Japan intervened heavily in September and October. South Korea is now worried that the won  has become too weak and is seeking to join Japan in obtaining a standing Federal Reserve swap line to meet dollar liquidity needs in its financial sector — potentially freeing up more of its existing reserves for intervention. Even though the dollar is now off its October peak, developing Asian economies continue to face several risks. The first is that certain economies may overestimate their balance sheet strength and sell foreign exchange for longer than is prudent. The basic principle is that temporary shocks can be financed with borrowed or reserve sales while permanent shocks require adjustment. The longer global energy prices remain high and the dollar remains strong, the more difficult it will be for countries to avoid adjustment. The second risk is the possibility of an additional shock from Japan. Japan’s efforts to limit the yen’s depreciation through intervention may fail, as it is harder for Japan to defend its currency through intervention than it is for smaller economies, whose financial markets remain less integrated into global markets. There is the additional risk that yen weakness and imported inflation could lead the Bank of Japan to abandon its policy of ‘yield curve control’ and that the associated rise in long-term Japanese government bond rates could push up interest rates globally. Many emerging economies would likely need to raise their domestic interest rates to avoid importing additional inflation, and to limit popular pressure for fiscal subsidies to offset higher fuel prices. This would be the Asian version of what is now called a reverse currency war. The third risk is a currency shock from China. China has long relied primarily on the signal sent by the People’s Bank of China’s daily fix — the central reference point for daily trading — to manage the yuan with only limited direct intervention by its central bank. To date, the pressure on China appears manageable. News reports suggest that the PBoC has leaned on China’s large state banks to use their balance sheets to help maintain the trading band around the yuan, but there is little evidence of pressure on the central bank’s reserves. However, if its economy remains weak, China may choose to allow more depreciation — both against the dollar and against the currencies of its trading partners to restart its economy. This would be an admission that China’s ability to avoid a prolonged stall through internal demand is limited and that exports are again required for growth. A yuan that is as weak as the yen could easily trigger a race down across the currencies of developing Asia. Many, though not all, developing Asian economies are less vulnerable to a repeat of the 1997 crisis. But few countries will be able to escape the fallout from the dollar’s current strength. A broader overshoot of many currencies that amplifies concentrated pockets of debt difficulties and complicates the fight against inflation globally remains a real risk.