Panicky protectionists are predicting some unsavory possibilities for the U.S. economy thanks to emerging foreign economies with newly created wealth to invest.
Although they're unlikely possibilities, CBS's April 6 "60 Minutes" delved into the potential threat one Chinese sovereign wealth fund might pose to the American economy.
"All together, the sovereign wealth funds of countries like Abu Dhabi and Kuwait have spent over $30 billion bailing out our financial system, which has raised some troubling questions," CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl said. "Are these mostly undemocratic regimes saving Wall Street or invading it? One fund is of special concern - it's new, highly secretive and the fifth largest in the world."
The fund Stahl referred to is China Investment Corp - a sovereign wealth fund with $200 billion to invest in the United States. Never mind that $200 billion is barely a drop in the bucket for a $13-trillion economy. That didn't stop Stahl from taking a stab at the fund's president.
"This is the fund's president, Gao Xiqing. Yes, it rhymes with ‘ka-ching!' Stahl said. "Last year, he decided to pour some of those billions into investment houses on Wall Street."
But, Chinese are investing in the U.S. economy because it makes the most sense. There is no economy large enough except for the U.S. economy and China's growth is largely dependent on the success of the American economy.
"For the past five years or so, China has been throwing around huge amounts of cash," Dr. George Friedman, CEO of Strategic Forecasting, Inc., wrote in a piece for Kiplinger's December 2007 issue. "The Chinese made big, big money selling overseas - more than even the growing Chinese economy could metabolize. That led to massive dollar reserves in China and the need for the Chinese to invest outside their own financial markets."
Stahl didn't disclose during the report that one of the economist she interviewed, Peter Navarro is the author of an anti-Chinese trade book, "The Coming China Wars: Where They Will be Fought and How They Can be Won."
Stahl warned viewers of the possibility of the worst-case scenario - what she and Navarro called the "nuclear option."
"In other words, we're all but dependent on Chinese investments," Stahl said. "Beyond this new fund, China holds half-a-trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds. So economist Navarro says they have us over a barrel. If they don't like our behavior, they can dump all their investments. It's known as the financial nuclear option."
But there's a reason the Chinese wouldn't do that - because in the long run, it wouldn't work. It would also end up hurting China. The Chinese would have nowhere to put that money and eventually, money would come back into the United States from other places.