‘Scapegoating’ China: Is US Fed to blame for market crisis or is Beijing ‘exporting pain’?

A view shows the Federal Reserve building © Larry Downing
As stock markets continue their slide into negative territory, economists debate whether the problems lie in monetary mismanagement by the US Federal Reserve or with China’s domestic concerns “exporting pain” to others via its yuan devaluation.

Speaking to RT, economist Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital Inc. said that there is a lot of “scapegoating” surrounding China and the yuan’s devaluation when it comes to the recent downward fortunes of global stock markets, but that the Federal Reserve is the more responsible culprit when it comes to any instability in the American economy.

“This is not about China. This problem is made in America. It’s all about the Fed. The Fed inflated this bubble and now they’re threatening to prick it. Everybody expects the Fed to actually raise interest rates,” Schiff said, after US stocks rallied early Tuesday before crashing in the final hour of trading.

He went on to say that he believes the possibility of the Fed raising rates is “a bluff,” and that doing so would trigger another financial crisis.

“If the Fed takes away the zero percent interest rates, this market is going to implode and we’re right back at recession… that is what is hurting markets around the world,” Schiff said. “It’s the fear of higher interest rates. That’s propping up the dollar, that’s depressing emerging markets, that’s depressing commodity markets.”

Critics of Schiff’s view claim the Fed isn’t to blame and that, in fact, the US government has not done enough to help boost the economy.

“The problem is that this has been a very weak recovery for the United States,” Mark Weisbrot from the Center for Economic and Policy Research told RT. “Our GDP is about 8.5 percent bigger than it was at the peak before the Great Recession,” he said, adding that this statistic represents very little growth.

By comparison, he said, China has grown by 80 percent and Europe has just recently caught up to its pre-recession peak. Specifically, Weisbrot singled out the European economy as the “much worse problem,” citing much higher unemployment rates there than in the US.

He said the Fed “has done its part” by keeping interest rates low and that America needs more infrastructure investment and stimulus to create another three or four million jobs.

Schiff, however, was adamant that the US hasn’t had “a real recovery.”

“The reason that the average American is worse off today than when the recovery began is because the Fed hasn’t allowed a recovery,” he said, adding that measures such as zero percent interest rates are “interfering” with a true recovery. Instead, less government, higher rates and a “real recession” are needed before recovery can occur, Schiff said.

This argument was challenged by Weisbrot, who said that allowing the recession to worsen wouldn’t have helped because the kinds of policies Schiff advocated for had been implemented in Europe and did not lead to better economic growth.

Regarding China’s role in the market turmoil, economist Max Wolff of Manhattan Venture Partners told RT that the yuan’s devaluation is a move that suggests China is still more interested in looking inward than focusing on the global economy.

“When the Chinese go for the devaluation, what they’re saying is, ‘We’re more concerned with our domestic employment and GDP picture, and we’re willing to make a good effort to export our pain to other people,’” he said. “What that means is that a leading global economy isn’t taking a leadership role; it’s really internally focused and it’s willing to export some pain in order to stabilize internally.”

This could suggest the situation in China may be worse than initially thought, he added. Beijing’s move has led other nations to follow suit and devalue their currencies in order to stay competitive, Wolff said, warning that any further devaluation could risk a continuing chain reaction.

At the same time, he noted that there are “real pockets of weakness” in the US economy, particularly since the bottom 75 to 80 percent of households still haven’t recovered from the 2008 crisis. “They’re not as strong as we’d like them to be going into a tough global moment,” Wolff said.