China offers to buy Greek bonds

An employee at the Athens stock exchange.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Lest you think the European debt crisis is over, Greece announced another round of spending cuts and tax increases today. The government's trying to convince investors that its finances are finally under control. They do seem to have already persuaded the Chinese. Over the weekend, Premier Wen Jiabao said he'd be happy to buy Greek bonds. And he's going to put billions of dollars into Greek shipping companies while he's at it.

From our European Bureau, Stephen Beard.


Stephen Beard: The Greeks were dismissed as feckless by some of their European partners earlier this year, but now the Chinese premier paid tribute to their handling of the debt crisis. And he told the Greek government, if you want to sell more bonds, we'll buy them.

But Tim Leunig of the London School of Economics urges the Greeks to take all this with a pinch of salt.

Tim Leunig: China is not buying Greek debt because it thinks it offers a great return. It's buying Greek debt because it thinks it will offer influence in the European community.

He says that by buying Greek and other European government bonds and supporting the euro, China hopes to gain even greater access to European markets -- and receive fewer complaints about dumping underpriced products.

Stephen King of HSBC Bank suspects another motive too. He believes China is trying to buy European support in its fight with the U.S. over currency manipulation.

Stephen King: China now needs to find some friends in Europe partly because of this tension with the U.S. on the currency. And that means by effectively lending to people who are desperate for money, they can make those friends.

But, says Steve Barrow, currency strategist with Standard Bank, the Europeans are not that desperate.

Steve Barrow: I don't think that whatever Chinese officials may say that you will see European politicians supporting the idea that currencies should be fixed in this way.

He says that in spite of China's warm words about the Greeks and the euro, the Europeans will still accuse China of dumping and of currency manipulation.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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