In an era where economic policy on China can change with a tweet, a group of scholars at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta this week are taking a deeper look at what some call the world’s most consequential trading relationship.
The Atlanta Fed in 2016 launched a collaborative research workshop with the International Monetary Fund to decode China’s economy, whose breakneck growth in recent decades has been accompanied by concerns about overcapacity and government debt.
The joint effort was inspired by the Atlanta Fed’s Americas Center, a group of researchers the bank focused on the Western Hemisphere, says Tao Zha, executive director of the Atlanta Fed’s Center for Quantitative Economic Research.
“We thought we needed to have more understanding of the Chinese economy, and it happens that the IMF was also interested in China too,” Dr. Zha said.
Little did they know the roller coaster ride that awaited them with the election of President Donald Trump later that year. Mr. Trump has pursued a policy of rebalancing U.S. trade with China that has led to tit-for-tat tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and has dampened bilateral investment.
Dr. Zha said the recent situation has heightened the importance of the annual two-day workshop on China’s economy, which alternates each year between Atlanta and Washington.
“That has even generated more discussion and understanding of how this will play out down the road. In some sense, it even makes it more relevant,” Dr. Zha said.
Hui He, senior economist at the IMF, joined with Dr. Zha to put on the program. Both got their doctoral degrees in economics at the University of Minnesota, more than a decade apart.
Mr. He told Global Atlanta that the D.C. forum ropes in more think tanks and policy makers, while the Atlanta edition is a bit more technical, with academics sharing recent research papers and challenging each other’s work.
Thursday morning’s presentations focused on topics both acute and timeless in the U.S.-China relationship. One looked at how American and Chinese companies’ management practices affect their export proficiency. Another aimed to parse out how periods of uncertainty in the U.S.-China relationship affected stock returns, while yet another looked at the implications of intellectual property policy for trade.
The event is closed to the public, but the full program and the list of presenters and their papers can be seen here.
Topics of discussion include trade, financial stability, monetary policy, fiscal policy, industrial policy, capital account liberalization, internationalization of the Chinese renminbi and more.
A dinner is set to be held Thursday evening featuring a keynote speech from Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, deputy director in the research department at the IMF.