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The Great Rebalancing: Trade, Conflict, and the Perilous Road Ahead for the World Economy

The Great Rebalancing: Trade, Conflict, and the Perilous Road Ahead for the World Economy [Kindle Edition]

Michael Pettis
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"[Michael Pettis is] a brilliant economic thinker."--Edward Chancellor, Wall Street Journal "Insightful... [O]ffers a sweeping perspective that links trade, exchange rates, and cross-border capital flows to underlying domestic taxation, investment, and fiscal policies... Pettis's erudite, but lucid and very readable analysis brims with surprising ripostes to conventional wisdom... Pettis's stimulating, contrarian take on the present crisis challenges dogma with clear thinking."--Publishers Weekly "This is a book that should be read by: (a) politicians, central bankers and anybody else involved in macroeconomic policy; (b) all economists; (c) all students of economics; and (d) everybody else. The Great Rebalancing: Trade, Conflict and the Perilous Road Ahead for the World Economy by Michael Pettis is as sharp and clear as a cut diamond in its analysis of the continuing global imbalances. The author brings logic, accounting identities and clarity of thought and language to bear on the issue of prospects for the global economy, putting most other commentators into the shade."--Diane Coyle, Enlightened Economist "[A] book full of easy-to-understand, yet often misunderstood theories, explanations and predictions for what went wrong internationally before the 2008 Financial Crisis, what has been going on since, and where things are likely to head in the future... The Great Rebalancing is probably one of the clearest, most elegant and logically written explanations of world trade, including both how policies affect trade and how trade affects economies... [T]his is not just a China book, but a book encompassing some of the biggest economic and financial questions of our time. The persuasive, clear and well-reasoned arguments behind many of the seemingly unorthodox ideas in the book will make it both pleasing and nicely unsettling for many readers. Hopefully its message will be heard amongst policymakers before some of the more disturbing predictions become realities."--James Parker, Diplomat "With much pleasure, I highly recommend Michael Pettis' newest book The Great Rebalancing... Michael Pettis has taught me most of what I know about global trade. I also happen to believe he is the world's foremost expert on China in relation to trade and global macro events. I give two thumbs up to The Great Rebalancing."--Mike "Mish" Shedlock, Global Economic Analysis "I've been waiting for this book for over 10 years... Anyone who wants to understand international economics better will benefit from this book. I cannot recommend it more highly."--David Merkel, Seeking Alpha "This is a dense and well-argued book... It will be read with interest by the large and growing community that follows China's economy."--Mark O'Neill, South China Morning Post "The Great Rebalancing is probably one of the clearest, most elegant and logically written explanations of world trade, including both how policies affect trade and how trade affects economies... [T]his is not just a China book, but a book encompassing some of the biggest economic and financial questions of our time. The persuasive, clear and well-reasoned arguments behind many of the seemingly unorthodox ideas in the book will make it both pleasing and nicely unsettling for many readers. Hopefully its message will be heard amongst policymakers before some of the more disturbing predictions become realities."--James Parker, Diplomat Pacific Money Blog "[F]ascinating reading."--BizEd "[The Great Rebalancing] is original and quite convincing, and coherently challenges conventional accounts."--Choice


China's economic growth is sputtering, the Euro is under threat, and the United States is combating serious trade disadvantages. Another Great Depression? Not quite. Noted economist and China expert Michael Pettis argues instead that we are undergoing a critical rebalancing of the world economies. Debunking popular misconceptions, Pettis shows that severe trade imbalances spurred on the recent financial crisis and were the result of unfortunate policies that distorted the savings and consumption patterns of certain nations. Pettis examines the reasons behind these destabilizing policies, and he predicts severe economic dislocations--a lost decade for China, the breaking of the Euro, and a receding of the U.S. dollar--that will have long-lasting effects.

Pettis explains how China has maintained massive--but unsustainable--investment growth by artificially lowering the cost of capital. He discusses how Germany is endangering the Euro by favoring its own development at the expense of its neighbors. And he looks at how the U.S. dollar's role as the world's reserve currency burdens America's economy. Although various imbalances may seem unrelated, Pettis shows that all of them--including the U.S. consumption binge, surging debt in Europe, China's investment orgy, Japan's long stagnation, and the commodity boom in Latin America--are closely tied together, and that it will be impossible to resolve any issue without forcing a resolution for all.

Demonstrating how economic policies can carry negative repercussions the world over, The Great Rebalancing sheds urgent light on our globally linked economic future.


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Von pigeon
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
Michael Pettis argumentiert von grundsätzlichen bilanziellen Entitäten her zwingend, dass es eine Menge nationaler politischer Entscheidungen gibt, die Auswirkungen auf internationale Handelsbilanzen haben. Dies sind nicht nur diejenigen, die direkt auf eine Beeinflussung der Handelsbilanz abzielen (Zölle, Währungsabwertung) sondern eigentlich alle Gesetze, die eine Veränderung des Verhältnisses von Konsum zu Produktion zur folge haben. Es zeigt, wie politische Entscheidungen durch die Leistungsbilanz propagieren und welche Folgen das für die globale Wirtschaft hat. Ein Muss für alle, die die grundlegenden Mechanismen globaler Finanzkrisen, der Eurokrise und der noch ausstehenden Chinakrise verstehen möchte.
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Michael Pettis zeigt auf sehr klare und überzeugende Weise, wie viele gängige moralisierende aber auch von hochrangigen Experten vorgebrachte Erklärungsweisen der heutigen Krise auf falschen Schlüssen beruhen. Denn sie ignorieren oft simple Grundregeln der "Saldenmechanik", wie das einmal ein bedeutender deutscher Ökonomen genannt hat (den der Autor nicht zitiert und wohl nicht kennt). Pettis demonstriert, dass es keine neue Ökonomie braucht, um die heutige Krise zu verstehen, sondern nur die konsequente Beachtung der Logik der Salden auch im internationalen Zusammenhang.
Der Autor, der an der University of Peking lehrt, gibt eine hochinteressante Darstellung der chinesischen Wirtschaft und Wirtschaftspolitik, sowie ihrer internationalen Auswirkungen. Er zeigt, über welche grundlegenden Mechanismen Politik, die rein nationale Ziele verfolgt, weitreichende außenwirtschaftliche Konsequenzen haben kann. Und für deutsche Leser ist vor allem wichtig, wie er die deutsche Rolle in der europäischen Krise skizziert: das sollte für jeden unserer Politiker zur Pflichtlektüre gemacht werden.
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62 von 69 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Pettis is multifaceted/ An equation is worth 1000 words! 24. Januar 2013
Von Lemas Mitchell - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
This book is interesting from the outset.

1. It is written for the intelligent public. I thought at first that it would be a rehash of all his old online posts from his (blocked in China) website (a la John Mauldin, Endgame: The End of the Debt Supercycle and How It Changes Everything). But there is a lot of deeper thought and expansion on things that Pettis has discussed before.

2. There is a lot of intersection with the writings of Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

a. The first way is that he spends a lot of effort trying to break the hold of academic economists on public discourse and he is fully aware of the limits of their predictive power. (He is not quite as derisive as Taleb.)

b. A lot of his epistemic underpinnings are very similar. The first book that he intersects with is Nassim Taleb's Antifragile in that he views smaller financial crises as instrumental in preventing the type of imbalances to build themselves up that lead to Titanic financial crises. He also give a nod to Taleb's "retrospective distortion" (i.e., imagining that events were more predictable in the past than they in fact were) with respect to using Confucianism to explain Asian success.

3. I can see that the author is well read. Pettis actually mentions in passing many other "miniature myths" (the Confucian work ethic, Dependency theory).

4. From the outset, he is clear that this is NOT a moral issue (as some have tried to make it to be). It has been suggested many times in the popular press that if only the Greeks would become more like the thrifty and hardworking Germans, then this crisis would resolve itself. But Pettis lets us know that balance of payments don't depend on the temperaments of the citizens of the country at all. And so just because you can make up a nice, moral tale (Ludic fallacy?) to explain those events doesn't mean that that tale is correct or useful.

5. If I had to find a way to describe what he does, I would describe it as.....mechanistic international trade flows/ trade flow mechanisms (with respect to the mechanistic organic chemists/ organic reaction mechanisms). Pettis gives us a lot of food for thought about the mechanism by which things happen-- and once you start to ask those kinds of questions, then you can make better predictions.


An equation is worth 1,000 words! It really would have helped if Pettis had given us the simple equation S-I=X-M (savings less investment equals exports less imports) and then worked through several examples. It happens that I knew quite a few (but not all) of the equations that he was implying, but reading him try to talk his way through the equations was very difficult and it could have been clarified with a few concrete numerical examples. I can deduce that the author was trying to avoid the trap of mathematical sophistication that a lot of economists use in order to cover up sloppy arguments (or lack of understanding), but a few well chosen equations would have been worth their weight in gold. (GDP= C + I + G + NX). I'm also not satisfied that he doesn't clear up well enough the difference in "investment" in a domestic sense vs. in an international sense. That is to say: If China has such tremendous overinvestment, why doesn't it run a trade deficit? Maybe a few worked numerical examples would have helped. I think I understand why, but he could have made the point just a bit clearer.

What do we essentially take away from this?

1. Balance of trade is much more complicated than simply exchange rates or interest rates;
2. Balance of trade is related to the savings/ investment balance in a country, but what goes into creating that balance is *highly* idiosyncratic and multifaceted. As such, most pundits that don't have boots on the ground are likely to be misinformed;
3. Owing to the many factors that go into balance of trade, it is possible to be misinformed about which one is a major factor as well as the direction of causality.
4. An up close picture of China's over-investment (a whole chapter is devoted to this).
5. Bubbles are never the same thing twice, and nor are financial collapses. There is a lot of "Monday Morning Quarterbacking" going on in Economics, but from the specificity of the situations that Pettis describes......could it be any other way? Is meaningful prediction even possible?


The book is worth the time (about 3-4 afternoons worth of reading) and worth the Kindle purchase price (just over $16).
28 von 33 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Another Book Review from the Aleph Blog 22. Februar 2013
Von David Merkel - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I've been waiting for this book for over 10 years. When Michael Pettis wrote The Volatility Machine, he explained how emerging market countries imported the monetary policies of the developed countries.

Now, in the present mess of economic policies put forth by most governments in our world, he explains how the debt and trade imbalances will eventually have to balance.

We've had other economic eras where trade did not balance. In the era of mercantilism, trade did not balance, because the mercantilistic countries sought gold, and adopted policies that favored exports, so that their nation would receive gold. Smart, huh?

Well, no. Gold is good; I like it, and it preserves value better than anything else, but when you take actions to disproportionately get gold, you overpay for it. Then when you realize your error, and start to sell gold for goods, the market knows that you are selling, and the value of gold falls.

That is why countries that force growth tend to lose. Because they force growth through overinvestment, they look like stars for a time, but eventually the declining marginal productivity of capital catches up with them, as it did with Japan in the late '80s or early '90s, and the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

Governments are no good at directing growth. We knew in the late '70s that import substitution did not work. It took 20-30 years more to realize that export promotion does not work long-term. Happily, my old professor Bela Belassa never lived to see his theories repudiated. (He was a cold guy, but not totally; he had mercy on me once, and for that I am grateful.)

Back to Pettis: his main argument is that the surplus countries must take losses over loans to deficit countries. The loans were made in bullish times, and from any reasonable standpoint, they were bad loans. Therefore the lenders should compromise with the borrowers, and both sides take losses.

This applies to China versus America. China will not get repaid in the same purchasing power as they lent. If China wants to thrive, it will need to take steps it has been unwilling to take politically, and free much more of the economy from government and Party control. Only that can boost domestic consumption as a fraction of GDP.

This applies to Germany versus the rest of the Eurozone. They won't get paid back in the same terms; either there will be discounts in Euro terms, or some nations will leave the Eurozone. The alternative is Federal Europe, where losses are shared across the nation, much as California subsidizes Maryland.

One way or another, just as the mercantilists lost, so will the surplus nations lose today. It's just a question of when and how.


I can't get into SDRs [Strategic Drawing Rights] of the IMF as a currency. Currencies either need gold or taxation authority behind them. Further, taxation authority requires police power to enforce taxation, which is not the case. SDRs are a cute idea that some academics fall for, but are not a real world solution.

For those who read his e-mails regularly, 25% of the book will be "old hat."

Who would benefit from this book: Anyone who wants to understand international economics better will benefit from this book. I cannot recommend it more highly.
18 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Thoughtful book that is very interesting if you are willing to do the extra work 16. Mai 2013
Von Jackal - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
The book is good, but quite frustrating to read.

One key message is that the Chinese GDP growth is too driven by investment. The author argues that it would be beneficial if future growth would be more driven my consumption. For reasons explained in the book, the Chinese households are subsidising the investors (state-run companies and wealthy people). These subsidies go to powerful actors, so it will be extremely difficult for the Chinese government to change course. He does not say it straight out, but he clearly thinks things will end badly.

The book is about the imbalances in capital flows and trade between countries. Most of the book is devoted to China, but it also deals with the potential conflict between Germany and the European PIIGS.

The author wanted to write a book that any educated person could read. I like this objective, but unfortunately he does not succeed in this regard. You will not understand the author's argument if you do not have familiarity with macroeconomics. Unfortunately, the author refuses to use charts and simple equations in the book. I seriously disagree with him that it is making the book more readable. The book centers around the balance of payment statistics, so why not show those statistics in a table? Currently, if you are not willing to look up the numbers and the GDP definition yourself, you just have to take the author's arguments at face value. Not good. For instance: You studied macroeconomics some time back, but are not familiar with the accounting changes, e.g. the split between government expenditure and government investment. So you have to look it up to understand the author.

Sometimes the explanations are a bit convoluted because the author likes to makes minor points that cannot really be sustained. One example of a minor point: He likes to say that the high Chinese savings rate is not driven by cultural reasons. Later in the book, he says that a lot of the saving in China occurs outside the household sector. And somewhere else he says that the households probably save more because they get so low interest rates. I am no expert, but it all seems slightly confused. Why not first talk about savings in the household sector. Maybe that is driven by the lack of social safety net, why else save more with lower interest rates (ie cultural reasons)? Then he could talk about savings in the other sectors of the economy and explain the nature of those savings. We can all understand household savings but what does government savings and corporate savings mean? Furthermore, the author should give the reader a percentage split of the different kinds of savings.

In some sense the author is stuck in a traditional macroeconomics mode of thinking. I wish he would have made more micro-level connections as well as talked a bit more about political economy. This can all be done within economics. In this regard there are a lot of loose ends in the book. For instance, the author likes to make the point that the capital account drives the current account (another one of those minor, unnecessary points). Reading the author's argumentation I cannot agree. I still think they are mutually constituted. Maybe the author has a point, but he cannot convince me before he provides much more micro-level causal relationships. Some footnotes to the academic literature on this topic would also have been useful, now I have to look it up myself.

The book is worth four star (good but not a masterpiece) if you are willing to spend the time with the book and be a student again (recommended!). It is a shame that the author did not explain himself more clearly. I cannot give the book more than three stars overall.
11 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Expected more 6. August 2013
Von Athan - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
To read this book you need some AP economics, because the author does not bother to lay it out. Here's the necessary crib:

(1) Y = C + I + G + (X - M)
(2) Ydisposable = S + C
(3) Ydisposable = Y - TAX + TR

(2),(3) => S + C = Y - TAX + TR =>

(4) Y = S + C + TAX - TR

(1),(4) => C + I + G + (X - M) = S + C + TAX -TR =>

(5) (TAX - TR - G) + (S - I) = (X - M)

In plain English, equation (5) says that the budget surplus (tax collected minus transfers minus government spending) plus net savings (savings minus investment) are identically equal to the trade surplus.

It makes sense, of course. Maybe in today's world you should say that the budget deficit plus net dissaving equals the trade deficit, but you get the idea.

You can complicate it a bit more by also including net investment flows, but the above crib is good enough to plough through the book.

There's a reason the author does not have the crib in the margin of every page: he likes to exaggerate. To exaggerate best, he needs to play fast and loose with equation (5). So he states, for example, that a tariff on a necessary good (a good that is imported from abroad but we cannot do without and will not buy any less of after the tariff has been imposed) will AUTOMATICALLY lead to more net exports.

Such a tariff is clearly a tax by another name. Suppose TAX goes up in equation (5). There's more than one ways this can be balanced out:
(i) more government spending G or more transfers TR would do the trick
(ii) savings S could go down, as people who've borne the tax can save less
(iii) fewer goods might be imported to compensate for the tariff
(iv) less capital might be exported

The author axiomatically states that net exports will go up, which corresponds to (iii) and (iv) above but ignores (i) and (ii). It's one of the book's big ideas that a tariff or a currency devaluation does not rely so much on substitution effects as it does on the inevitability of accounting identities. Well, if you cannot explain it in English, if you cannot lay out how the accounting identity comes about, you should not be writing books, frankly.

Regardless, the author knows what he's talking about, and most of the time he gets it right. Especially when he discusses China (comfortably the best chapter and good enough a reason to buy the book) a lot of the alternatives to balance the equation are irrelevant, because the process is managed and choreographed by the Chinese government. And in China the budget surplus / deficit is totally dwarfed by net savings which (as a result) roughly equal net exports. But the inevitability of the conclusions he presents is, quite simply, false. I agree with him a lot more than I disagree. The point is that he is presenting OPINIONS dressed as FACTS.

So do read the book, but arm yourself with the crib. When something seems far-fetched, check.

The other thing I did not enjoy about the book is the idea that Europe will get better only if the Germans become lazy and overpaid like everybody else. If there was only Europe and nowhere else, I'd say "what the heck, that kinda works too, until somebody else decides to get his act together." In a world with 6 billion people, I'm not so sure there's terribly much value in rushing to the lowest common denominator. Besides, our world is increasingly about services, rather than manufacturing.

Overall, the book discusses many important issues and presents a very interesting analysis of what's going on in China. I'm no China expert and I could not possibly comment on whether the analysis is correct, but it's an interesting and plausible perspective. I'm better off for having read the book, but to anybody who decides to buy it I'd recommend that you crib equation (5) above and write it in the margin of every page. Then use it to challenge the author on his most outrageous claims...

Yes, it's true that BUDGET SURPLUS + NET SAVINGS = TRADE SURPLUS, but it does not come about automatically. Economic agents have to make it happen. Maybe nobody told the author his job was to tell us how.
6 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Probably the most sophisticated analysis of the recent crisis 26. Februar 2013
Von Charles Saliba - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
In this book Pettis returns to the basic accounting identities to put together the clearest and most sophisticated analysis not just of the global crisis but of macroeconomics more generally, reminding us of the most important work of economists ranging from 17th Century mercantilists to John Maynard Keynes. There are times when it is repetitive, perhaps because the author doesn't want to lose non-economists, but no one reading this book is likely ever again to make the mistakes about trade, savings, and foreign investment that plague the work of even our best economists. No economist or policymakers should skip this book.
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