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Chinese exporters fear new wave of exchange rate fluctuations

The appreciation had been disturbing, sometimes, for Cao Xiaojian until the global financial crisis in October 2008. Thereafter, the yuan has largely fluctuated between 6.82 and 6.89 to the U.S. dollar.

From 2005, Cao says exporters had to consider many elements and work extremely carefully. "A minor mistake could cause huge losses."

In April 2008, the RMB fell below seven to the dollar and surprised Cao and his company, one of China's largest textile exporters.

"Before June last year, we had mistakenly believed that the dollar-yuan rate wouldn't break the seven mark. As a result, our company lost 20 million U.S. dollars."

Today, after almost a year with a relatively stable yuan-dollar rate, Cao and other business people fear the prospect of new fluctuations amid a new wave of calls by Western economies for yuan appreciation.

Cai Minqiang, president of Guangdong-based clothes manufacturer Famory, says his company managed to survive falling overseas orders thanks to a basically stable yuan.

"But many exporters can't weather another round of currency fluctuations," he says.

Some economists argue that a stable yuan is good for China and many other economies, at least for now.

Lian Ping, chief economist of the Bank of Communications, China's fifth largest lender, says a basically stable exchange rate is extremely important since China's export industry and the entire economy is recovering on a "fragile foundation."

"Only a stable exchange rate can make it easier for companies to assess manufacturing costs, accept orders and map out production plans," he says.

Lian points out that China, the world's third largest economy and one of the fastest growing, is important to a global recovery.

Chinese economic resilience will lead to more Chinese imports from the United States, Europe and Japan, which would help those economies, he says.

Blaming the RMB rate for the huge U.S. trade deficit is unjustified because the Chinese currency has gained more than 21 percent against the U.S. dollar, but U.S. trade deficit is still "unsolved," Lian says.

Stephen Roach, chairman of the Asia branch of U.S. banking giant Morgan Stanley, agreed in an interview by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations' website, saying the RMB exchange rate issue was "a red-herring."

"If we were to close down trade with China through some ill-begotten trade legislation or currency adjustment, we don't save the deficit. It just goes somewhere else. And they usually go to a higher-cost producer, which taxes the American public," Roach said.

Chinese officials have resisted calls to revalue the yuan, promising a stable policy environment for businesses, including a stable exchange rate.

Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said last week that China's macro-economic, including fiscal and monetary, policies would remain stable.

"At the same time, the RMB exchange rate should also keep basically stable so our export companies and other manufacturers can reasonably foresee future circumstances," he said.

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