TLDR: China is actively fighting domestic capital outflows. They are incentivising keeping funds on-shore by pumping the equity markets. Buy large China stocks (BABA, JD).
China has a fixed exchange rate regime. Blah blah RMB internationalization, blah blah offshore RMB (which is actually settled in US dollars). This places it within line C of the policy trilemma (which says, you can’t sustainably have all 3). Since 2005 to about 2017, the government was moving towards free capital mobility because of large amounts of exports which fed the national forex reserves. You bet billions of RMB left China, which the government didn’t really like at first because that reduced domestic investment and would contribute to a weaker RMB. Basically, China was trying to do all 3 which works for a short while… until your forex reserves run out.
The Current Problem
The trade war has definitely been bad for China. I am going to try and skip politics, but basically foreign exchange reserves have been gapping down (official Chinese data is 100% fake). China is increasingly bellicose as well, which doesn’t improve relations with trading partners who also buy with US dollars.
You can’t exchange for US dollars anymore. For private citizens, you can only exchange for education purposes or travel . For companies, you need verification of invoices through both SAFE (State Administration of Foreign Exchange) and the tax offices. This used to take 24hrs, but is now taking 2-3 weeks for amounts >$500k. China also has US dollar denominated bank accounts. But unfortunately, you can’t take it in cash unless you have the reasons above. Chinese media is also branding holding US dollars as unpatriotic, so I’m afraid my $50k in digital money might be subject to confiscation. If not, it’s just fake money (can’t take cash or wire out).
China has been brrrrrring to the pace of JPOW. Weapon of choice are muni and local bonds, which have been forced upon local banks. This creates a certain credit problem, but let’s not worry about that until later.
China’s pretty smart. All those RMB quotes are fake. You can try to get US dollars, but that is almost impossible now. Anyone who wants to buy RMB, contact me and we’ll trade at the current price. So looking at the impossible triangle, free capital mobility has become nonexistent. In order to keep exchange rate stability (to avoid a sudden rush towards the door) and keep printing, free capital mobility needs to be 100% sacrificed.
How do you do that with a population that has seen the west and aspire to get out? You need to keep the money onshore. Thankfully, all Chinese are greedy and the equity markets are full of retailers that pump stocks up or down 10% per day. This is one of the reasons for the early July State Council report calling for everyone to buy stocks. Who’s buying? Everyone. And if it drops, the national team takes over.
This creates a powerful incentive to fill the foreign reserves again. Foreigners (funds) would want to get in on the action. They will exchange their dollars for RMB, get those 20% gains, but eventually find out trying to get that money back into USD is impossible.
China has also been strengthening the RMB from 7.10 to 6.96 as of yesterday. Smart, because why would you want to sell an asset that’s weakening? This is also a reason why China fears gold rallies – buying gold causes RMB to leave. Happily for the SAFE, some banks have stopped offering their paper gold products.
China will pump its domestic markets. Unless you have a Chinese account, the closest thing you can get to are mega names like Alibaba, JD and Tencent. I would avoid touching too small companies because of LK coffee problems.
Disclaimer: This information is only for educational purposes. Do not make any investment decisions based on the information in this article. Do you own due diligence or consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.