The China Daily Never Disappoints

Never, ever, ever. Today's front page lead story:

Thumbnail image for IMG_8953A.jpgTwo points that go beyond a normal appreciation of my favorite newspaper. (For the record: state-controlled.)

First, on the substance of this story: In the two weeks I've now spent in China, I've heard the knowing-insider opinion, foreign and Chinese, seem to shift. In the beginning of June it was  "Yes, now that they been given a decent interval -- and now that they're not under face-losing public pressure from the US, and now that they can see that exports and the economy are surging again, etc -- of course the Chinese government will do something to satisfy demands that it unfreeze the RMB." Early this month, many people thought that something, even a tiny, token revaluation, would happen by the end of the month, in time for the G20 summit. Now in the middle of June I've started to hear, "Gee, do you think they might decide to tough it out and do nothing at all -- and keep the RMB frozen when their economists know that doesn't make sense and their diplomats know that's begging for trouble?"

I'm the very opposite of a "revalue the RMB" hawk. As a matter of economics, I've argued here and many other times that raising the RMB's value won't do much, directly, about the US-China economic imbalance, nor bring many jobs back to Ohio. As a matter of diplomacy, you rarely get real results by publicly berating the government in Beijing. Still, there's no question that it's time for the Chinese authorities to let the RMB start rising again. For global "rebalancing"  reasons (as here and passim) a chronic-surplus country shouldn't be holding its currency down in a time of still-precarious worldwide demand. Americans think this -- and so do Europeans, Japanese, developing-country leaders, and everybody else. Moreover, the Chinese officials could not possibly have been given a more respectful "decent interval" to make changes, without appearing to knuckle under to foreigners, over the past few months. So if they're not going to do anything even now.... well, it's worth watching carefully these next ten days.

Second reason to notice today's paper: The lead story's illustration of "analysis with Chinese characteristics" adds a piquant note to this other story, about the attempt of a Chinese newspaper group to take over Newsweek:

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Yes, Newsweek has its flaws; and, yes, the Southern News group that apparently tried to buy it is one of the more independent and enterprising journalistic operations in the country. (See item #3 here.) Still.... On general Chinese-government press theory, see here. And all of this is just on the front page!
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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