Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 2497 / 251,287

Articles

Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin

A B C D F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z

Browse by tag

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
QA
YE YM YI

Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious

Viewing cable 09BEIJING728, PREMIER WEN'S COMMENTS ON U.S. TREASURIES: PROTECT

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #09BEIJING728.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BEIJING728 2009-03-20 11:11 2010-12-26 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
VZCZCXRO5318
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #0728/01 0791110
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 201110Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2993
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIJING 000728

SIPDIS

STATE FOR E, EAP, EAP/CM, S/P
TREASURY FOR OASIA/DOHNER/WINSHIP
NSC FOR LOI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/20/2034
TAGS: ECON EFIN PREL PGOV CH
SUBJECT: PREMIER WEN'S COMMENTS ON U.S. TREASURIES: PROTECT
CHINA'S INVESTMENTS

REF: BEIJING 0666

Classified By: Economic Minister Counselor Robert Luke; Reasons 1.4 (b,
d)

Summary
-------
1. (C) Since Premier Wen Jiabao's March 13 remarks at a press
conference that China was "concerned" regarding the security
of its U.S. Treasury holdings and other investments (ref),
other Chinese contacts have clarified and interpreted his
comments. At the G-20 ministerial meeting in London, the
head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE)
and Deputy Central Bank Governor noted continued Chinese
concerns about the inflationary implications of the expansion
of the Fed's balance sheet. In a meeting that preceded Wen's
remarks, SAFE Director General (DG) Yin Yong noted SAFE's
concerns about the potential for U.S. dollar depreciation and
U.S. inflation, as both would erode the renminbi (RMB) value
of their assets. On March 19, DG Yin told us that Premier
Wen and other senior leaders believe it is important to avoid
actions that could be perceived as adversely impacting the
claims of senior creditors to systemically large financial
institutions and to avoid a repeat of "(the) Lehman
(situation)" in 2008. MOF Assistant Minister Zhu Guangyao
said that enhancing confidence and trust should be an
important theme of the next Economic Dialogue. Other Chinese
contacts have offered similar versions of their Government's
concerns, with one noting that there has been a "huge debate"
within the government about China's holdings of U.S.
Treasuries. See comments in paragraphs 8-10. End Summary.

2. (U) At the March 13 closing press conference of the
National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, Premier Wen
Jiabao was asked about U.S. measures to counteract the global
financial crisis in light of China's large holdings of U.S.
debt, and also about China's strategy to spread investment
risk if the USD depreciated. In response, Wen said China was
"paying close attention" to the U.S. economic situation and
the USG's measures to address the crisis. He then added that
"we are certainly concerned about the security of our assets"
and "I am a little concerned." Following the press
conference, coverage of Wen's remarks by China's official
Xinhua news agency acknowledged the Premier's "worries" while
also reporting that Wen expected U.S. measures would
"counter" the crisis. Xinhua also noted that China's
reserves were "generally safe" (ref).

What Did Wen Mean?
------------------
3. (C) Wen's remarks immediately generated intense
speculation that China might be contemplating some adjustment
in its foreign reserve management policy. Shortly after
reports of the Premier's remarks became public, U.S. Treasury
Department Acting Assistant Secretary Sobel raised the issue
with State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) Director
(and People's Bank of China Deputy Governor) Hu Xiaolian.
(Note: SAFE is the Chinese government agency responsible for
managing China's reserves.) In response, Hu noted China's
continued concerns about the inflationary implications of the
expansion of the Fed's balance sheet; her comments closely
paralleled those conveyed by SAFE Director General (DG) for
Reserve Management Yin Yong during a February 26 meeting in
Beijing with visiting U.S. Treasury DAS Dohner. On that
occasion, Yin had observed that SAFE was concerned about the
risks of U.S. dollar depreciation and U.S. inflation, as both
would erode the RMB value of their U.S. dollar denominated
assets. Yin called President Obama's announced intention to
cut the federal budget deficit by the end of his first term a
wise step, and said he would like to see measures by the
Federal Reserve to unwind its injection of liquidity after
the financial crisis ends.

Stabilize the Economy, and Protect the Investors
--------------------------------------------- ---
4. (C) In a March 19 follow-up conversation with Finatt, SAFE
DG Yin, who clearly had deferred meeting with us until he
received approval and guidance from his superiors, said the
Premier had been "worrying" about all of China's investments
in the U.S., including U.S. Treasury securities. Wen also
had "noticed" the policies promulgated by the administration
of President Obama, and hoped that the measures taken to
address the global economic crisis would help to stabilize
the financial systems and promote economic recovery. Yin
also said his "understanding" of Premier Wen's message was,
in addition to the above objectives, that U.S. policy should

BEIJING 00000728 002 OF 003


focus on protecting the interests of investors, as both
financial stability and protecting investor rights were
important for strengthening the confidence of domestic and
foreign investors.

5. (C) Continuing, DG Yin said he believed the USG measures
taken thus far are "responsible" and he hoped any future
interventions in systemically large financial institutions
also would be responsible and consistent. Ensuring that
would be vital for maintaining investor confidence, while
anything harmful to confidence would also undermine financial
stability. Yin noted concern about "voices" in the U.S. --
but not in the Obama Administration - that were recommending
"sacrificing" the interests of some senior creditors' claims
on systemically large financial institutions. (Comment: Some
U.S. commentators have suggested that the U.S. government
require that senior creditors take "haircuts" as a condition
for intervening in U.S. financial institutions. In previous
cases where the FDIC took over insolvent banks, not all
creditor claims were honored in full). After Finatt observed
that USG interventions taken to date in large financial
institutions have for the most part been designed to maintain
the confidence of holders of senior debt, Yin replied that
U.S. policies should be consistent, "not like Lehman" in
2008. (Comment: Several interlocutors have told us that
Lehman was a counterparty to SAFE in financial transactions
and as a result SAFE suffered large losses when Lehman
collapsed.)

Huge Internal Debate
--------------------
6. (C) Other Chinese contacts have offered us similar
versions of their Government's concerns about its U.S.
investments in recent weeks. In a February 27 meeting with
visiting Treasury DAS Dohner, senior economist Shen Minggao
of the respected "Caijing" magazine said there has been a
"huge debate" within the government about China's holdings of
U.S. Treasuries. Some officials are concerned about the
risks of future U.S. inflation due to excess liquidity
creation and USD depreciation. Furthermore, if China buys
more, the risk grows. He understood that SAFE has been
shifting its portfolio toward shorter-term assets to reduce
the risk of capital losses from higher inflation. Shen also
recommended the USG consider entering a bilateral agreement
with China under which China would continue providing funds
to the U.S. in exchange for some sort of hedging scheme.

7. (C) On March 18 Director Xiao Lian of the Center for
American Economic Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social
Sciences (CASS), told us that Premier Wen and the senior
leadership have been under "strong pressure" to address
public criticism about recent high profile losses on China's
overseas investments. Xiao also speculated that Wen may have
wanted to reiterate China's concerns, perhaps more clearly
understood by former Secretary Paulson and other now-departed
U.S. officials, to the new Obama administration. On March
16, CASS researcher Zhang Ming speculated to us that China
may want to invest in Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities
(TIPS) or RMB-denominated assets, to protect its overseas
investments. Professor Yu Yongding, also of CASS and
Director Xiao Lian's superior, has long advocated that China
press the U.S. to issue RMB-denominated debt, and at a recent
conference Yu opined that China should receive equities in
U.S. nationalized banks as collateral for its U.S.
investments. Xiao told us he has proposed that the U.S.
Government issue convertible bonds that Chinese investors
could convert into stocks (presumably of financial
institutions held by the U.S. government).

Comment
-------
8. (C) Regarding Premier Wen's remarks at the NPC press
conference, comments of this nature by senior Chinese
leaders, both public and private, are not new, although they
have not been expressed so directly at such a senior level.
Last fall on numerous occasions, Vice Premier Wang Qishan
remarked to then-Secretary Paulson, both privately and during
the public session of the Strategic Economic Dialogue, on the
need to "protect" Chinese investments. Since then, officials
from SAFE have repeatedly noted concerns about the risks of
an adverse market reaction, in both the fixed income and
foreign currency markets, to upcoming large gross issuances
of U.S. Government securities and the Federal Reserve's
injections of liquidity. (Comment: the U.S. dollar dropped
significantly against major currencies following the Federal
Reserve's announcement that it would be increasing

BEIJING 00000728 003 OF 003


significantly its purchases of various U.S. fixed income
instruments, including long-term U.S. Treasury bonds).

9. (C) Comments of this sort do not imply that China will
attempt to dump its U.S. Treasury holdings. Rather, they
indicate that China's leaders are aware that, while they can
purchase more or fewer USD-denominated assets at their
margin, their holdings are so enormous that they cannot
reallocate the currency composition of their portfolio to any
meaningful extent without leading to large capital losses and
thus further public -- and internal -- criticism.

10. (C) We believe Wen's remarks were most likely intended to
acknowledge rising public criticism over the government's
losses on its investment of reserves (fueled by high-profile
losses by the China Investment Corporation (CIC) in
Blackstone and Morgan Stanley). Wen also probably intended
to maintain blame for China's current cyclical downturn on
foreign factors, urge the U.S. and others to act resolutely
to restore financial stability and to stem the decline in
financial assets; signal to western governments that when
intervening in financial institutions not to trample on the
claims of foreign investors (e.g., as was done to China's
Ping An insurance company with its investment in Belgium's
Fortis); and, avoid surprises that could adversely impact the
claims of senior creditors. Ironically, one of the largest
USG interventions in financial institutions to date was in
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, where it agreed to inject up to
USD 400 billion in capital to keep the institutions solvent.
As former Secretary Paulson noted, this "effectively
guarantees" claims of senior creditors, the largest of which
is most likely SAFE.

PICCUTA