The extraordinary efforts by governments and central banks to prevent the global economy from collapsing over the past year seem to have worked. Growth is picking up again, and optimism is in the air. The question now on many people's minds here at the G-20: Is it time for an exit strategy?
Not yet, according to China. Despite a recent bout of optimism, including from U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner earlier today, Chinese officials said this evening that the international economy remains "quite fragile" and that Beijing isn't ready to support the unwinding of the various stimulus measures that governments have put in place to counteract the effects of the financial crisis.
As the recovery has gained momentum, some analysts have expressed concerns that governments under budget and political pressures would begin dismantling their costly stimulus programs too early.
"We believe it is still too early to talk about an exit strategy because the world economy is not out of the woods and the U.S. economy is still on a downward trend," said Department of International Cooperation official Ma Xin in a press conference here in Pittsburgh. "If we pull out or wind down the policies completely we may undermine people’s confidence."
John Kirton, a political scientist at the University of Toronto and an expert on the G-8 and the G-20, said in an interview that his biggest worry was that the major economies would unwind their stimulus measures too soon. His hope is that world leaders will issue a "strong, unified message" on staying the course after several countries, notably Japan and Germany, recently indicated they would begin dialing their stimulus measures back.
Chinese officials also responded to questions about one of the
hot-button issues hanging over this summit, the ongoing depreciation of
the U.S. dollar, which has lost 11 percent in value against a basket of major currencies since January. China, which now holds at least $2 trillion dollars in reserves, has made increasing noises in
recent months about its desire to eventually move away from the dollar as a global reserve
Geithner had to reiterate
in his press conference today that "a strong dollar is very important
in the United States." He added that he expected the dollar to remain
the world's main reserve currency for "a very long time."
Xie Duo of the People's Bank of China said that Beijing supported "the stability of major
reserve currencies," which he sees as an important condition for the
health of the world economy. Nonetheless, he said, "Most experts realize that the composition of the reserve currencies is flawed," and "it is reasonable for politicians to voice their criticisms of the current system."