counting renminbi Woo/He Featurechina/Ropi/ZumaPress

La Chine esseulée dans son combat contre la déflation

HONG KONG – Au début du mois de février, alors que la Chine célébrait le commencement de l’année du Singe, une newsletter publiée par un fonds spéculatif a largement circulé et suscité l’agitation sur les marchés financiers, annonçant en effet un atterrissage brutal de l’économie, l’effondrement du système bancaire de l’ombre, ainsi que la dévaluation du renminbi. Le calme et la stabilité ne sont revenus que lorsque le gouverneur de la Banque populaire de Chine, Zhou Xiaochuan, a expliqué dans une entrevue au magazine Caixin la logique sous-tendant les politiques chinoises de taux de change.  

La capacité de la Chine à maintenir cette stabilité dépend toutefois d’une multitude de facteurs étroitement liés, tels qu’une faible croissance de la productivité, la baisse des taux d’intérêt réels, l’apparition de technologies de rupture, l’excès de capacité, le surendettement, et l’excès d’épargne. En réalité, l’affrontement actuel autour du taux de change du renminbi est le reflet d’une opposition tendue entre d’une part les intérêts de ceux que l’on peut appeler les « ingénieurs de la finance » (parmi lesquels les dirigeants de fonds spéculatifs basés sur le dollar) et d’autre part les intérêts des « ingénieurs du réel » (les dirigeants politiques chinois).      

Les marchés de change constituent en théorie un jeu à somme nulle : la perte de l’acheteur fait le gain du vendeur, et vice versa. Les ingénieurs de la finance adorent spéculer sur ces marchés, dans la mesure où les coûts de transaction sont très faibles, et où les ventes à découvert et à effet de levier y sont autorisées, sans qu’il soit nécessaire de couvrir un actif sous-jacent. Le taux de change, en revanche, est un prix d’actif empreint de retombées économiques considérables, puisqu’il influence l’activité commerciale réelle ainsi que les flux d’investissement directs.    

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