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未发之言

这次到华盛顿开国际货币基金组织(IMF)春季会议期间的一个边会GEAR。GEAR的意思,是请各界专家为IMF正式会议的议题范围内,非正式地提供见解和意见,非官方,但档次很高。

国际货币基金组织总裁斯特劳斯-卡恩主持,世界银行行长佐利克、欧洲央行行长特里谢等参加,与会者30余人,我看到了索罗斯、法国商务部长拉加德、“末日教授”卢比尼,还认出了安·克鲁格,原世行副行长、发展经济学家和腐败研究开创者。与他们同为参会者,坐在一起开会讨论世界金融体系大事,我与有荣焉,飘飘然。

悲剧发生了。

人多水平高,两个小时biu一下就过去了。我看还有1/3的人未及发言,正想抢跑,斯特劳斯-卡恩已宣布,各位意见建议,我全记下来了,谢谢大家。我傻眼了。未进一言,于人于已,情何以堪。

此次为闭门会议,除参会者外无外人,采用chatham house规则,可以自由引用会上言论,但不得注明语出何人,以鼓励自由发言。

我在会上感觉,法国的声音比较强。国际货币基金组织总裁斯特劳斯-卡恩是法国人,据说有望成在下届法国总统大选中成为萨科奇劲敌。欧洲央行行长特里谢也是法国人,金融危机以后一直被人关注。法国女性商务部长拉加德满头金发,英语纯正,逻辑清楚。最近几年我在各种高级别国际会议上总是看到他们三人,在今天会上,忽然有三人在国际金融舞台上形成铁三角阵容的印象。他们三人正好座位成犄角之势,很印证感觉。

开会之前,我问索罗斯,你对中国房地产泡沫如何看?他最近说过,中国的房地产泡沫如果管理不当,后果严重。对我的问题,索罗斯轻轻带过:哎呀呀,中国房地产我只说了这一句话而已,没有什么见解,没有什么见解(insight)。他倒是对我们的事挺了解,问我,“你是老的还是新的?”我说,过去是老的,现在是新的。

我原作准备,就是从中国的房地产泡沫问题说起,没能发言,遗憾之至,发在这里,中英文版俱在。这个发言,是我与两位同事李增新、钟良合作产物。

未发之言

我来自中国,所以说说中国最大的担忧是什么。

中国当前最大的担忧,是房地产泡沫。举个例子,从3月底到4月初,两个星期之内,我办公室旁边的住宅价格涨了10%。北京高档公寓的价格向曼哈顿接近。美国全国独立住宅的中位价格不到20万美元,这在北京市里也就买套一居室公寓。

全球2007年以来的金融危机看起来快结束了。如果什么令人担心的话,就是中国房地产泡沫会不会引发另一场震动。

中国政府终于开始采取行动。在我来之前一周,政府出台了一系列措施,包括增加土地供给,限制房地产信贷。中国不能承受类似日本1980年代末期房地产泡沫破裂的冲击,及其后失去近乎20年。

但是,中国政府的手被绑着。最近出台的所有措施,都是直接针对房地产的。中国没有从整个经济体回收银行信贷,中央政府年初定的全年信贷总量7.5万亿目标并没有改变。中国也没有加息或者升值。中国政府还未决断整体启动刺激的退出。这使得针对房地产业的定点爆破政策的有效性大成疑问。

中国政府为什么不启动整体退出?IMF刚刚上调了对于2010年度中国经济的增长预测到10%以上。中国经济不需要刺激,要说需要恐怕是需要冷却一下。不整体退出的一个合理解释,就是欧美还没有退出时间表。

或迟或早,中国会退出,人民币利率会加、汇率会升。但这只是等式的一边,另一边,是美欧成熟市场经济体继续在相当长时段内保持极低利率水平。这使得中国政府担心,人民币一旦重启升值,可能会不断持续,没底。你当然可以说中国央行对人民币汇率控制力够强,但那样我们就回到升值之前互相指责的状态。

所以,人民币要升值很重要,同样重要的是欧美要拿出更清楚的退出时间表。如果欧美继续长时期保持极低利率,中国政府在人民币重估的路上无法走得很远。中国房地产泡沫难以抑制,后果可能是灾难性的。各方的宏观政策都牵扯到利害相关者,IMF如何让他们都注意到全球责任?

Unspoken Speech

China's biggest concern right now is the housing bubble. From late March to early April, in two weeks, price of apartments near my office in Beijing rose 10%.  The price of hi-end apartment is catching up to those of Manhattan.  The medium price of independent home in America is less than $200,000, barely buy a shabby one bedroom apartment in Beijing.

The global financial crisis is close to end. But if anything keeps Chinese decision makers awake at night, it is the building up of a housing bubble. China can't afford to make the same mistake of Japan 20 years ago.

The Chinese government finally took action. One week ago, the Chinese government had launched a series of tightening policies specifically targeting the housing sector, including pumping up land supply, and tightening of mortgage.

However, its hands are tied. All these tightening policies target housing sector only. The government did not curb bank loans across the economy. The target of 7.5 trillion bank loan in 2010 had not been adjusted downward. POBC had not raised the interest rates, nor revalued RMB. China has not decided to exit the stimulus plan put into place since the end of 2008. Thus how effective the tightening policy targeting housing sector is an open question.

Why not? IMF just upgraded its prediction of China's economic growth in 2010 to above 10%. This economy doesn't need stimulus, it needs cooling. A plausible explanation is that China does not want to start exit before the developed economies have a clearer exit agenda.

It is just a question of time that China will start exit, raise RMB interest rates, revalue RMB. But this is only one side of the equation. The other side is that the US, UK, and Europe should clarify when they will stop the policy of extremely cheap money. Otherwise, Chinese government has a real concern that the revaluation of RMB, once started, sees no end. Yes the reserve currency countries do not have an exchange rate policy but their monetary policies do have external effect. The cheaper the US Dollar is, the bigger the pressure on RMB to appreciate against it. Chinese central bank may have control over RMB exchange rate, but then we would come back to the game of finger pointing.

RMB revaluation is important, but the exit agenda of the US and Europe is as important. Chinese government can not go very far if extreme low rates are maintained for extended period in developed countries. That makes it even harder for Chinese government to contain and manage the housing bubble challenge. The result could be disastrous, for China and for other countries. Now both sides are watching the actions by the opposite. What can the IMF do to bridge that?

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