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Experts: Huge holding of US bonds risky
Updated: 2009-05-31 16:20

BEIJING-- On the first day of US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner's visit to China, the Beijing-based Global Times published a survey of 23 famous Chinese economists on Sunday, saying that the majority of them deemed the vast holding of US bonds "risky."

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Among the 23 experts polled, 17 said they believed that US equities pose great risks to China's economy.

Geithner will begin his first visit to Beijing as US treasury secretary in an attempt to assure the US' biggest creditor that its large holding of purchased US bonds is safe.

The visit also highlights Geithner's comments made earlier this year alleging that China has manipulated its currency.

Li Wei, an expert with the Institute of Ministry of Commerce, and Tian Yun, a scholar at the China Macro Economics Institute, expressed concerns over the risks, saying that the United States may export its deepening crisis to China "by printing US dollar notes uncontrollably."

But five other experts, including Yi Xianrong, a researcher at the financial research center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), and Mei Jun, deputy director of the Finance and Securities Institute at Renmin University of China, said they don't believe US equities pose "great risks" to the country's economy.

They said compared with other investment, the investment in US notes are less risky as the US is still the engine of the world economy.

Hu Zhihao, a scholar of the Finance Institute of CASS, said the way China holds US equities poses the risk as almost all the foreign reserves are in the hands of the government, which cannot be sustained and will have to change gradually.

Knowing the potential risks, 15 of the interviewed economists said they were against the idea to quickly offload China's possession of US debt as a means to strengthen the country's financial stability and decrease Beijing's vulnerability to the already ailing world economy.

Song Fengming, director of the Department of Finance in the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University, said China has no better option but to buy US Treasury bonds, while other options, such as the Japanese Yen and British pound, are volatile and soft.

Other experts held China should offload the US debt.

Zhou Shijian, senior research fellow of the Center for US-China Relations at Tsinghua University, said the vast holding of US equities can be very dangerous as the Americans are not going "to reduce the speed of printing dollars."

On finding a way out, most experts said China ought to expand its investment on tangible and strategic materials such as grain, energy and mineral resources, and intangible assets such as equities and bonds.

They also believed that Chinese enterprises should conduct overseas mergers and acquisitions, while increasing exports of high technology.

Li Defeng, a professor of the School of Finance at the Central University of Finance and Economics, said China should reform its existing economic growth pattern and rely on expanding domestic demand.

He Weiwen, a director of the American Economic Association of China, said China's neighboring countries, especially in East Asia, can serve as its new investment destination.