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    FAQs on Foreign Exchange Management Policies (2)
FAQs on Foreign Exchange Management Policies (2)

Q6: How can the operation and management of foreign exchange reserves follow the principles of safety, liquidity, and value increment?

A: Safety, the primary principle, can be broken down into three key elements: diversification, long-term perspectives, and strategic considerations. As the saying goes, dont put all your eggs in one basket; in other words, when one door shuts, another door opens, hence the need to diversify. There are continued worries that we are taking too much of this asset or too much of that currency, but in fact this risk is under control, due to our sustained efforts in recent years to diversify investment. As for a long-term perspective, when we are determining the asset structure we should comprehensively consider the long-term factors, such as the risk-returns of various assets and market development trends. As a responsible long-term investor in the international market, we must not be a super retail-investor. With regard to strategic considerations,when we are determining the currency composition, we need to comprehensively consider the macro strategic factors, such as Chinas international balance of payments structure, foreign payment demands, and the developmental trends in the international monetary and financial systems, because the stability of macro elements can ensure the safety of our foreign exchange reserve investments.

The liquidityprinciple should be understood in the context of Chinas national circumstances. The renminbi is not an international currency, so the liquidity requirements of the foreign exchange reserves should not be generally confined to foreign payments, such as for imports. Instead, we need to take into consideration the national economic development strategy and make sure that the foreign exchange reserves can be used as a magic weaponin a timely and effective manner if a reversal in capital flows threatens to trigger a monetary crisis or even a financial crisis.

The principle of value incrementrequires maintenance of the long-term stable profitability of the reserve assets during the management of the foreign exchange reserves. This is in line with the above two safety and liquidity principles. As a result, the profits from the foreign exchange reserves might not be the highest in a given year, but we are confident that in the long run, there will be stable and substantial returns.


Q7: Did Chinas foreign exchange reserve investments suffer huge losses during the recent international financial crisis?

A: It is safe to say that this international financial crisis was the most devastating crisis in decades. Against this backdrop, it is inevitable that various investments suffered certain impacts and influences.

However, we are proud to report that Chinas foreign exchange reserves withstood the test of this severe financial crisis and the overall safety of our assets has been maintained. In 2008 and 2009, the hardest-hit years, we managed to earn decent profits on the basis of breaking even.

Our most important management method is to properly allocate assets and diversify investments. In terms of allocation of asset types, we make a point of spreading risks among investment products, such as those from governments, institutions, and international organizations, as well as corporate assets and funds. In terms of currencies, we have built a loose composition that encompasses the major traditional currencies, such the US dollar, the euro and the Japanese yen, as well as the currencies of the emerging economies. Such a diversified allocation can help hedge against risks and ensure adequate leeway for asset management.

In addition, risk prevention and management has always been an important part of our investment work. Investments of Chinas foreign exchange reserves emerged from the recent financial crisis fairly unscathed due to the fact that we do not have risky products such as sub-prime mortgages.


Q8: Recently, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac de-listed their shares from the New York Stock Exchange. Have Chinas foreign exchange reserve investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac suffered losses?

A: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both government-sponsored institutions chartered by the US Congress to help fund home mortgages, hold under their name 50 percent of the real estate loans in the US residential real estate market and are critical to Americas housing market and economic development. Because of the large-scale and high liquidity of their debt securities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac received a lot of investments from the foreign exchange reserves of many central banks around the world. During the financial crisis, this pair of mortgage giants was supported by a government bailout and therefore remained solid. Presently, the US government holds about 80 percent of their shares and is their biggest shareholder. Their being de-listed from the NYSE has not had any negative impacts on their debt securities.

Chinas foreign exchange reserves were not invested in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shares. As for debt securities, repayment of the principal and interest is being maintained and prices are stable. We will continue to closely follow the latest Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac developments to ensure the asset safety of our foreign exchange reserves.


Q9: Under Europes current sovereign-debt crisis, will the SAFE adjust its investment strategy for foreign exchange reserves in the European market or reassess the euro assets that it holds?

A: Generally, although the bailout measures have been rolled out and implemented to help high-debt countries such as Greece prevent debt defaults and restructuring, we should continue to pay close attention to any new developments in the crisis.

We have always firmly supported the EU integration process and have also supported the package of financial stability measures that the EU and the International Monetary Fund have adopted. We believe that, under the joint efforts of the international community, all of Europe will definitely overcome the current difficulties and maintain the stability and healthy development of the financial markets.

As a responsible long-term investor, in terms of our foreign exchange reserves China has always adhered to the principle of diversified investment and the European market was, is, and will remain one of the major investment markets for our foreign exchange reserves.

Q10: If there is a sharp depreciation in the US dollar, will China's foreign exchange reserves suffer a heavy loss?

A: To address this issue, a comprehensive analysis will be required.

First, we must take into account the currency composition of Chinas foreign exchange reserves and the trends in the exchange rates of other currencies against the RMB. A number of currencies constitute the foreign exchange reserve assets. Even if the US dollar were to depreciate, the euro and other currencies might appreciate, thus to a certain extent cancelling out one another. Therefore, in order to understand the impact of a depreciation of the US dollar on Chinas foreign exchange reserves, we need to conduct a specific analysis of the composition of China's foreign currency basket.

Second, an actual gain or loss in Chinas foreign exchange reserve assets will only occur when they are exchanged for RMB. Foreign exchange reserves mainly exist in the form of foreign currency assets and are used to ensure the countrys international liquidity, including payments for imports, international financing, debt payments, as well as maintenance of the stability of the currency and financial systems. Unless there are special circumstances such as a war or a crisis, the People's Bank of China will never convert its foreign currency reserve assets into RMB on a large scale. Therefore, due to the above reasons, a depreciation of the US dollar against the RMB will not cause an actual loss in Chinas foreign exchange reserves.

Third, the value of China's foreign exchange reserve assets is decided by its real purchasing power. Foreign exchange reserves are mainly for external payments, so whether there is a loss in foreign exchange reserves mainly depends on a decrease in their purchasing power. If there is inflation in the United States, the real purchasing power of the foreign exchange reserve assets will be affected, which means the same amount of US dollars will buy less than before. Yet, the reality is that China's foreign exchange reserves have been maintaining stable income after many years of operations and their return on assets (ROA) is higher than the US inflation rate. In recent years, the US consumer price index (CPI) has been generally low, therefore the ROA of China's foreign exchange reserves insures a steady increase in their purchasing power.

Fourth, the book loss in Chinas foreign exchange reserves caused by an appreciation of the RMB is far less than the book surplus of Chinas financial assets. As of March 2010, China's foreign exchange reserves amounted to USD2.42 trillion. During the same period, if calculated by the exchange rate at the end of March 2010, the total assets in China's banking sector were approximately RMB84.3 trillion, equivalent to approximately USD12.3 trillion and 5.1 times that of China's foreign exchange reserve assets. This means that when the RMB appreciates, the book gain in RMB assets is roughly equivalent to 5.1 times of the book loss of the foreign exchange reserve assets. If we take into account other financial assets such as stocks and bonds held by residents as well as real estate assets, the book gain in RMB assets will be even greater. It is worth emphasizing that the above-mentioned loss or gain only means a change in book value, which would only occur if there is an actual conversion between the RMB and the other currencies.

The English translation may only be used as a reference. In case a different interpretation of the translated information contained in this website arises, the original Chinese shall prevail.

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