爱思英语编者按:美国经济与金融实力之间日渐拉大的差距给美元区内外的其他国家造成了许多问题。究其原因,在于美元主宰力的成本正在开始超出盈利。

The world economy
世界经济

Dominant and dangerous
主宰的和危险的

As America's economic supremacy fades, the primacy of the dollar looks unsustainable
随着美国经济支配地位的衰落,美元的霸主地位看上去是不可持续的

 m.jpg

IF HEGEMONS are good for anything, it is for conferring stability on the systems they dominate. For 70 years the dollar has been the superpower of the financial and monetary system. Despite talk of the yuan's rise, the primacy of the greenback is unchallenged. As a means of payment, a store of value and a reserve asset, nothing can touch it. Yet the dollar's rule has brittle foundations, and the system it underpins is unstable. Worse, the alternative reserve currencies are flawed. A transition to a more secure order will be devilishly hard.

霸主的好处在于能够给它主导的体系带来稳定。70年来,美元一直是金融和货币体系的霸主。尽管有人民币崛起之说,但是,美元的主导地位是不可挑战的。作为一种支付手段、一种价值载体和一种储备资产,没有什么能够触动它。然而,美元的统治存在着易碎的基础,而且它支撑的体系也不稳定。更糟糕的是,备选的储备货币是有缺陷的。向一种更安全的秩序的转变将异常艰难。

When the buck stops
当美元止步时

For decades, America's economic might legitimised the dollar's claims to reign supreme. But, as our special report this week explains, a faultline has opened between America's economic clout and its financial muscle. The United States accounts for 23% of global GDP and 12% of merchandise trade. Yet about 60% of the world's output, and a similar share of the planet's people, lie within a de facto dollar zone, in which currencies are pegged to the dollar or move in some sympathy with it. American firms' share of the stock of international corporate investment has fallen from 39% in 1999 to 24% today. But Wall Street sets the rhythm of markets globally more than it ever did. American fund managers run 55% of the world's assets under management, up from 44% a decade ago.

几十年来,美国的经济实力赋予了美元合法的称霸诉求。但是,正如我们本周专题报道所示,一条断层线已经在美国的经济实力和金融实力之间裂开了。美国占全球GDP和商品贸易的份额分别为23%和12%。但是,大约60%的世界产出以及同样比例的人口位于一个事实上的美元区之内,其间的各种货币,不是与美元挂钩,就是大致与美元同步变动。美国企业的国际企业投资占比已经从1939年的39%降至今天的24%。但是,华尔街为市场定调的全球性却超过了以往。美国基金经理管理下的世界资产比例,已经从十年前的44%升至今天的55%。

The widening gap between America's economic and financial power creates problems for other countries, in the dollar zone and beyond. That is because the costs of dollar dominance are starting to outweigh the benefits.

美国经济与金融实力之间日渐拉大的差距给美元区内外的其他国家造成了许多问题。究其原因,在于美元主宰力的成本正在开始超出盈利。

First, economies must endure wild gyrations. In recent months the prospect of even a tiny rate rise in America has sucked capital from emerging markets, battering currencies and share prices. Decisions of the Federal Reserve affect offshore dollar debts and deposits worth about $9 trillion. Because some countries link their currencies to the dollar, their central banks must react to the Fed. Foreigners own 20-50% of local-currency government bonds in places like Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey: they are more likely to abandon emerging markets when American rates rise.

首先,各个经济体必须承受剧烈的动荡。美国方面极为微小的加息前景,在最近几个月中从新兴市场吸走了大量的资本,重创了它们的货币和股价。美联储的决定影响着大约9万亿美元的离岸美元债务和存款。由于一些国家将货币与美元挂钩,它们的央行必须要对美联储做出反应。外国人拥有印尼、马来西亚、墨西哥、南非和土耳其等国20%-50%的本币政府债券:他们更有可能在美联储加息时放弃新兴市场。

At one time the pain from capital outflows would have been mitigated by the stronger demand—including for imports—that prompted the Fed to raise rates in the first place. However, in the past decade America's share of global merchandise imports has dropped from 16% to 13%. America is the biggest export market for only 32 countries, down from 44 in 1994; the figure for China has risen from two to 43. A system in which the Fed dispenses and the world convulses is unstable.

资本外流的痛苦,在某个时间点,或许会因为推动美联储第一个加息的需求——包括对进口的需求——的增强而得以缓解。但是,在过去十年中,美国在全球商品进口中的占比已经从16%跌至13%。现在的美国仅是32个国家的最大出口市场,比1994年的44个国家有所下降;中国的数字已经从2个上升至43个。一种美联储派发、全世界震动的体系是不稳定的。

A second problem is the lack of a backstop for the offshore dollar system if it faces a crisis. In 2008-09 the Fed reluctantly came to the rescue, acting as a lender of last resort by offering $1 trillion of dollar liquidity to foreign banks and central banks. The sums involved in a future crisis would be far higher. The offshore dollar world is almost twice as large as it was in 2007. By the 2020s it could be as big as America's banking industry. Since 2008-09, Congress has grown wary of the Fed's emergency lending. Come the next crisis, the Fed's plans to issue vast swaplines might meet regulatory or congressional resistance. For how long will countries be ready to tie their financial systems to America's fractious and dysfunctional politics?

第二个问题是离岸美元体系在面临危机时的缺乏支撑。在2008-09年间,美联储曾经不情愿地出手救援,通过给外国银行和央行提供1万亿美元流动性的方式,扮演了最后贷款人的角色。一场未来危机所涉及的数额会远远高于这个数字。现在的离岸美元世界几乎是2007年的2倍之大。到本世纪20年代,它可能与美国银行业一样大。自2008-09年以来,美国国会已经厌倦了美联储的紧急放贷行为。当下次危机来临时,美联储发起巨额互换协议的计划或许就会遭遇监管部门或者国会的抵制。各国还准备将它们的金融体系捆绑在美国难以驾驭且功能失调的政治上多长时间?

That question is underscored by a third worry: America increasingly uses its financial clout as a political tool. Policymakers and prosecutors use the dollar payment system to assert control not just over wayward bankers and dodgy football officials, but also errant regimes like Russia and Iran. Rival powers bridle at this vulnerability to American foreign policy.

这个问题之被强调是因为第三个担忧:美国正在越来越多地将经济实力当作一种政治工具来使用。决策者和检察官不仅利用美元支付体系区来维持他们对刚愎自用的银行家和诡计多端的足球官员的控制,还利用这套体系来维持对俄罗斯和伊朗这样的迷途政权的控制。敌对势力对这种容易受美国外交政策影响的弱点愤愤不平。

Americans may wonder why this matters to them. They did not force any country to link its currency to the dollar or encourage foreign firms to issue dollar debt. But the dollar's outsize role does affect Americans. It brings benefits, not least cheaper borrowing. Alongside the “exorbitant privilege” of owning the reserve currency, however, there are costs. If the Fed fails to act as lender of last resort in a dollar liquidity crisis, the ensuing collapse abroad will rebound on America's economy. And even without a crisis, the dollar's dominance will present American policymakers with a dilemma. If foreigners continue to accumulate reserves, they will dominate the Treasury market by the 2030s. To satisfy growing foreign demand for safe dollar-denominated assets, America's government could issue more Treasuries—adding to its debts. Or it could leave foreigners to buy up other securities—but that might lead to asset bubbles, just as in the mortgage boom of the 2000s.

美国人可能会对这种重要性背后的原因感到不解。他们没有强迫任何国家将自己的货币与美元挂钩,也没有鼓励外国企业发行美元债券。但是,美元的超级角色的确影响着美国人。它带来各种各样的好处,不仅仅是更便宜的借贷。然而,在拥有储备货币的“过度特权”的同时,还存在着各种各样的代价。如果美联储没能在某次美元流动性危机中扮演最后的贷款者,随之而来的国外的崩盘将反作用于美国经济。同时,即便是没有危机,美元的主宰力也会让美国决策者处于一种两难的境地。如果外国人继续积累储备,到本世纪30年代,他们将主宰美国国债市场。为了满足外国人日渐增长的对于美元资产的需求,美国政府或是发行更多的国债——增加自身的债务;或是任由外国人购买其他证券产品——但是,这可能导致像本世纪头十年的抵押贷款狂热那样的资产泡沫。

It's all about the Benjamins
这全都关乎美元

Ideally America would share the burden with other currencies. Yet if the hegemony of the dollar is unstable, its would-be successors are unsuitable. The baton of financial superpower has been passed before, when America overtook Britain in 1920-45. But Britain and America were allies, which made the transfer orderly. And America came with ready-made attributes: a dynamic economy and, like Britain, political cohesiveness and the rule of law.

理想的情况是,美国会与其他货币分担这一重担。然而,如果美元的霸主地位不稳定,潜在的继承者是不适合的。金融超级大国的指挥棒之前曾经被传递过,那是在美国超越英国的1920年-1945年之间。不过,英国和美国是盟友,这使得那次传递得以有序进行。再者,当时的美国已经具备了接棒的条件:一个活力四射的经济体,以及像英国那样的政治凝聚力和法治。

Compare that with today's contenders for reserve status. The euro is a currency whose very existence cannot be taken for granted. Only when the euro area has agreed on a full banking union and joint bond issuance will those doubts be fully laid to rest. As for the yuan, China's government has created the monetary equivalent of an eight-lane motorway—a vast network of currency swaps with foreign central banks—but there is no one on it. Until China opens its financial markets, the yuan will be only a bit-player. And until it embraces the rule of law, no investor will see its currency as truly safe.

将此与今天的储备地位竞争者做一比较。欧元是一种连自身的存在还都不一定的货币。只有在欧元区就全面的银行联盟和联合债券的发行达成一致时,这些担忧才会完全平息下来。至于人民币,中国政府已经打造好了一个巨大的与外国央行进行货币互换的网络,这就好比是一条8车道的货币高速公路。只是,这条高速公路目前还空空如也。在中国开放其金融市场之前,人民币将仅仅是一个配角;在中国全面接受法治之前,没有投资者会把他们的货币视为真正安全的货币。

All this suggests that the global monetary and financial system will not smoothly or quickly wean itself off the greenback. There are things America can do to shoulder more responsibility—for instance, by setting up bigger emergency-swaplines with more central banks. More likely is a splintering of the system, as other countries choose to insulate themselves from Fed decisions by embracing capital controls. The dollar has no peers. But the system that it anchors is cracking.

这一切表明,全球货币和金融体系将不会顺利地摆脱美元,也不会快速地摆脱美元。存在着许多美国能够以之而承担起更多责任的事情——例如,同更多的央行设立额度更大的紧急互换协议。随着其他国家通过资本管制的方式来选择让自己摆脱美联储决定的影响,更大的可能是当前这个体系的崩塌。美元没有平起平坐的货币与之为伴。但是,它维系的这个体系正在分崩离析。