Peter Drysdale over at East Asia Forum exposits claims by historian Harold James that only action by China can rescue the global economy from US financial ineptitude. Indeed, to James, China is the US of the 1920s and 1930s. China should become the anchor of the modern international financial system.
'China is today’s America...When the 1920s and ’30s crisis hit, America alone had the capacity to take the big public sector action at home that was needed to stem the panic and economic collapse and the reserves to save Europe and the rest of the world from massive contagion. Andrew Mellon, US Treasury Secretary of the time, resolutely stood back, determined to let markets collapse and ‘purge the rottenness out of the system’. The collateral economic and geopolitical damage from that adjustment path through the markets was well and truly done before Roosevelt’s New Deal was put in place. Then, and now, a globalised world means that the solution to such crises spans borders. Aside from the US, only China...has the firepower to rescue the global conglomerates at the heart of the global financial system now under stress.
China, of course, has already played a role in picking up some of the pieces as the wheels fell off the US financial bus. As the crisis unfolded, Chinese and Middle East sovereign wealth funds recapitalised some of the debt of US and European institutions. But more recently Chinese investment Co (CIC) backed away from bankrolling Lehmann Bros. ....CIC backed away from picking up the tabs on Lehmann Bros as pay-back for US failure to act in the East Asian financial crisis and that is fanciful. This is only the micro play. The big play is the geopolitical paradigm shift that needs to deal China into its new responsibilities in managing the international economic and financial system. China can’t be expected to play its role in these affairs until it is brought into the centre of the global economic decision-making processes.
Meanwhile, the US crisis comes at a time that highlights the peculiar measure of influence and responsibility that rests upon China. Here, even more than in the East Asian financial crisis, China has the chance of making its own constructive and strategic contribution through underwriting policies to support a stronger RMB and boost continued growth of its own domestic demand. This will buttress the efforts of policymakers in Washington, serve China’s own national interests and leverage China’s role as an anchor of the international system'.