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The End of Chimerica


Moritz Schularick
Freie Universität Berlin
John-F.-Kennedy Institute
Lansstr. 7-9
14195 Berlin


For the better part of the past decade, the world economy has been marked by an economic order that combined Chinese export-led development with US over-consumption. The financial crisis of 2007–09 likely marks the beginning of the end of the Chimerican relationship. In this paper, we look at this era as economic historians, trying to set events in a longer-term perspective. In some ways, China's economic model in the decade 1998–2007 was similar to the one adopted by West Germany and Japan after World War II. Trade surpluses with the United States played a major role in propelling growth. But there were two key differences. First, the scale of Chinese currency intervention was without precedent, as were the resulting distortions of the world economy. Second, the Chinese have so far resisted the kind of currency appreciation to which West Germany and Japan consented. We conclude that Chimerica cannot persist for much longer in its present form. As in the 1970s, sizeable changes in exchange rates are needed to rebalance the world economy. The token adjustment proposed recently by Beijing is unlikely to suffice.