China gets a vote on America's debt problem too, you know

The nature of that Chinese vote is frequently mischaracterized. It’s not as if the Chinese are about to sell the several trillion dollars in United States Treasury bills they already hold; the last thing they want to do is devalue one of their own biggest assets. But in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago, the Chinese have used both formal and informal meetings with their American counterparts to explore whether America’s plan for reducing its debt is credible — and to remind American officials that they have options to gradually shift their money, say, to oil wells in Africa or real estate in the Middle East…

Robert D. Hormats, a former top executive at Goldman Sachs, and now under secretary of state for economic affairs, notes a deeper paradox: America’s message to the Chinese, and other Asian partners, may cut down on how much America can borrow. Its message to surplus countries like China is, “You should consume more and save less,” he said. If they listen, “there will be fewer funds available to buy bonds and other assets here.”

In fact, the Chinese are coming to that conclusion all by themselves. Though the country is experiencing a construction boom at home, many of their cities and towns are deeply in debt, and may need bailouts. Same for the banks in an overheated Chinese property market.