1.pngDonald Trump is on the warpath against China over trade: On Thursday afternoon, he announced plans to impose a range of tariffs against hundreds of lines of Chinese-made goods. But it’s crucial to recognize where those dollars that China gains from selling us their goods are going.唐纳德.特朗普正积极准备对中国发动贸易战:他在周四下午公布了对中国制造的数百种商品征收关税的计划。但最为关键的是,我们必须弄清楚中国向美国出口商品的收益流向了何方。The surplus flows right back into U.S. Treasuries, to fund our gigantic and ballooning federal deficits, in addition to providing tons of growth capital to stateside industries—all at bargain rates. Hence, the U.S. is extraordinarily dependent on cheap loans from China. And our reckless fiscal path, made far more treacherous by the recent tax cuts and spending hikes, is greatly worsening that dependence.中国对美国的贸易盈余,除了以极低的利率为美国各行各业提供大量发展资本以外,大都购买了美国国债,用于支付美国政府规模庞大且日益膨胀的联邦赤字。因此,美国极其依赖中国的低息贷款。美国不计后果的财政路线,因为最近的减税和支出增加变得危机重重,而对中国的这种依赖正在令情况变得更加糟糕。Message to Trump: While you’re battling with China, think hard about what happens if the Chinese start snubbing U.S. debt.特朗普应该知道:如果你要引爆与中国的贸易战,请认真考虑一下一旦中国开始抛弃美国国债,会有怎样的后果。To see why that’s such a threat, it’s important to understand how the U.S. has been able to keep growing at a moderate but steady pace despite an explosion in deficits and debt. In most periods, the U.S. Treasury’s brobdingnagian borrowing would have pushed interest rates skywards as the federal government competed for the limited pool of domestic savings with capital-hungry businesses. But rates have remained extremely low because the U.S. has been able to tap a record pool of foreign savings, from nations lured by the matchless safety of U.S. government bonds and the excellent returns on our private sector equity and debt alike.要弄清楚为什么中国放弃美国国债是一个严重威胁,首先要了解美国在赤字和债务膨胀的情况下为什么能够保持适度稳定的增长速度。通常,美国财政部的巨额借款会导致利率大幅提高,因为联邦政府要与急需资本的企业争夺有限的国内储蓄。但美国却一直维持极低的利率,因为凭借美国国债无与伦比的安全性以及私营部门股票和债务的丰厚回报率,美国吸引了创纪录的外国储蓄,可供政府使用。And our paramount foreign creditor, and leading enabler of our rampant borrowing, has been our biggest trading partner: China. Today, the Chinese own around $1.2 trillion in Treasuries; if they were to lose their appetite for our bonds, the economic repercussions could be catastrophic.而美国最大的外国债主以及政府疯狂借贷的主要支持者,就是我们最大的贸易伙伴:中国。今天,中国持有约1.2万亿美元美国国债;如果中国对美国的债券失去兴趣,美国经济将会遭到毁灭性的打击。An outcome the U.S. can’t afford美国难以承受的后果China is already on the road to purchasing less of our newly issued debt, whatever happens on the trade front. Although its annual trade surplus with the U.S. has stabilized at around $350 billion, it’s well below its peak of a few years ago. And China’s waning power as an exporter, primarily due to the stronger yuan, has substantially lowered its holdings of foreign reserves. So just when the U.S. deficit is set to jump from $667 billion in 2017 to close to $1 trillion in this fiscal year, and an estimated $2.4 trillion by 2027 if current spending and tax policies continue, China will be meeting a lot less of our fast-growing need for funding. Put simply, the supply of Treasuries will explode, and foreign demand will likely prove more reserved than in the past, thanks in large part to shrinking purchases from China.实际上,无论贸易领域发生怎样的摩擦,中国都已经在逐步减少购买美国新发行的国债。尽管每年中国对美国的贸易顺差一直稳定在3,500亿美元,但却远低于几年之前的最高水平。受到人民币升值等因素的影响,中国作为出口国的实力有所减弱,已经导致中国的外汇储备规模大幅缩小。与此同时,美国政府预计本财年的财政赤字将从2017年的6,670亿美元扩大到接近1万亿美元,如果维持当前的支出和税收政策,到2027年财政赤字预计将达到2.4万亿美元,美国的资金需求将迅速增长,但中国可以提供的资金将会大幅减少。简单地说,美国的国债供应会呈爆炸式增长,但随着中国减少购买美国国债,外国需求却很有可能较过去更加保守。That scenario already threatens to cause precisely what the U.S. can’t afford: a spike in interest rates. Of course, yields are bound to rise somewhat because of the Federal Reserve’s pledge of serial short-term rate increases and a newly resurgent economy. But the Congressional Budget Office is forecasting that the 10-year Treasury yield will reach only 3.7% by the end of 2027, up from around 2.8% today. Even if yields stabilize in that range, interest on the debt would reach almost $1.1 trillion by 2028, according to a forecast from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. (That’s the equivalent of two-thirds of projected spending for Social Security a decade hence.)这种情况的影响已经显现,将会带来一个美国无法承受的后果:利率飙升。当然,由于美联储承诺将在短期内连续加息,美国经济最近也开始复苏,因此美国国债收益率一定会有所上涨。但国会预算办公室(Congressional Budget Office)预测,至2027年年底,10年期国债的收益率只会从今天的约2.8%提高到3.7%。据尽责联邦预算委员会(Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget)预测,即便国债收益率稳定在这一区间,到2028年,美国国债利息将达到约1.1万亿美元。(相当于未来十年社会保障预测支出的三分之二。)Given the weight of those carrying charges, any significant rise in “real,” or inflation-adjusted yields would prove disastrous. (What matter is real not nominal rates, since the Treasury would recoup moderate increases in inflation via higher tax collections on higher incomes.) A real-rate surge would increase borrowing costs for Uncle Sam and for businesses, and make it ever more expensive for the federal government to meet its obligations on everything from military spending to retirement benefits.考虑到利息的规模,“实际”收益率或通胀调整后收益率大幅上涨,其后果都将是灾难性的。(重要的是实际收益率而非名义收益率,因为美国财政部可以通过提高对高收入人群征税,来补偿通货膨胀的适度增长。)实际收益率大幅上涨会导致“山姆大叔”和美国企业的借贷成本激增,并增加联邦政府履行军费开支、退休福利等义务的成本。It’s conceivable that Trump’s feud with China will trigger the most extreme form of retaliation: A sudden pullback on purchases of U.S. debt. Today, the Chinese own around $1.2 trillion in Treasuries, 20% of the $6 trillion in federal debt held by foreign sovereign investors; the Japanese hold another $1.1 trillion. If the Chinese decline to roll their money into new Treasuries as the old ones mature, the worldwide market for U.S. sovereign debt would shrink, causing a sudden rise in real rates.可以想象,特朗普与中国闹翻,一定会引发最为极端的报复:中国突然停止购买美国国债。目前,在外国主权投资者持有的6万亿美元美国国债当中,中国持有约1.2万亿美元,占20%;日本持有1.1万亿美元。如果旧债期满后,中国停止购买新发行国债,美国主权债务的全球市场会大幅收缩,导致实际收益率突然上涨。A heavy weight to carry沉重的财政负担Imagine that by 2028, yields on the ten-year rise not to 3.7%, but an extra point, to 4.8%. By Fortune’s estimates, total federal debt would jump from a projected $33 trillion to $36 trillion, and annual interest expense would soar from $1.1 trillion to $1.5 trillion. That’s equal to 75% of projected spending on our biggest entitlement, Medicare. And that rising obligation would crowd out even further the government’s ability to invest in other spending that would bolster the economy.想象一下到2028年,美国10年期国债的收益率不是上涨到3.7%,而是4.8%。据《财富》杂志估计,联邦债务总额将从预测的33万亿美元激增至36万亿美元,年利息支出将从1.1万亿美元增加到1.5万亿美元。这相当于政府预测的美国最大的一笔福利支出 ——医疗保险支出的75%。而债务增加会进一步影响联邦政府通过其他投资拉动经济增长的能力。Granted, that’s not the most likely outcome. “It’s more likely that China would respond to tariffs by devaluing the yuan, or by making it much more difficult for U.S. companies to do business in China,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. The reason is that a sharp increase in rates would tank the value of the U.S. bonds in China’s giant portfolio of foreign reserves. On the plus side for China, it would also counteract pressure on the dollar from China’s trading the maturing Treasuries for local currency, but even a somewhat stronger dollar wouldn’t compensate for the drastic drop in the price of China’s holdings of fixed-income securities.诚然,这并不是最可能出现的结果。穆迪分析(Moody’s Analytics)的首席经济学家马克.扎蒂表示:“针对美国的关税措施,中国更有可能采取的应对措施是使人民币贬值,或者对美国公司在中国开展业务设置更多障碍和阻力。”原因是收益率大幅上涨将会减损美国国债在中国庞大的外汇储备中的价值。对于中国有利的一面是,这种变化也会抵消中国将到期美国国债换成人民币给美元带来的压力,但即便美元小幅贬值也无法补偿中国持有的固定收益证券价格的大幅下跌。China’s motive for ditching U.S. debt doesn’t have to be anger or retaliation. Its leaders could reckon that protectionism will hobble U.S. growth; if that were to happen, fears that America can’t handle its debt and deficits might prompt investors worldwide to demand higher rates for the extra risk of holding Treasuries. Then, the Chinese and other overseas lenders would rush for the exits before a looming spike in yields pummels prices of U.S. bonds.中国抛售美债的动机,不见得是出于愤怒或者报复。中国国家领导人可能认为,贸易保护主义将妨碍美国的增长;一旦出现这种情况,对于美国无法处理债务和赤字的担忧,可能促使全球投资者要求更高的美债收益率,来对冲持有美债所承担的额外风险。此时,中国和美国的其他海外债主,会在即将发生的收益率大幅上涨导致美国国债价格下跌之前退场。Still, it’s possible that the bad blood over trade could escalate. It’s a case where one nation—China—gets hit hard, and the other nation, the U.S., gets crushed. China can afford a fight where it retaliates against our tariffs by shunning our debt. But its opponent already totters, weakened by an addiction to debt. Trump should tread carefully before risking a fight that America can’t afford.贸易争端依旧有升级的可能。但贸易战的结果可能是中国受到沉重打击,而美国却陷入崩溃。如果中国选择以放弃购买美国国债报复美国的关税措施,中国就可以承受一场贸易战。但其竞争对手美国因为沉迷于举债早已虚弱不堪,一场贸易战将令其陷入崩溃的边缘。因此,特朗普在发动一场美国无法承受的贸易战之前,应该三思而后行。