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Working Paper 12-15

Choice and Coercion in East Asian Exchange Rate Regimes

by C. Randall Henning, Peterson Institute for International Economics

September 2012


This paper examines the exchange rate regimes of East Asian countries since the initial shift by China to a controlled appreciation in July 2005, testing econometrically the weights of key currencies in the implicit baskets that appear to be targeted by East Asian monetary authorities. It finds, first, that Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines have formed a loose but effective “renminbi bloc” with China, and that South Korea has participated tentatively since the global financial crisis. Second, the emergence of the renminbi bloc in terms of the exchange rate has been facilitated by the continued dominance of the US dollar as a trade, investment, and reserve currency.  Third, exchange rate stabilization is explained by the economic strategies of these countries, which rely heavily on export development and financial repression, and the economic rise of China.  Fourth, analysts should specify the exchange rate preferences of these emerging market countries carefully before drawing inferences about Chinese influence within the region.

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