(image via nytimes)
"To give up gas face he drinks from a thermos/
Sub roc cut at you with a clipper/
Gas face given, I beg to differ"
Gas Face, 3rd Bass
Borborygmous was the laughter at Peking University. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner drew loud laughter from the student audience in trying to reassure them that "Chinese assets are very safe."
The problem with Timmy Geithner is that he projects what can only be properly construed as a twitchy, nervous energy. Predators, and rising powers, can detect the faintest traces of hesitation. Ted Nungent, a well-known Id-driven predatory manimal, observed of the Treasury Secretary, "Geithner's shifty appearance and nervous mannerisms do not exude calm confidence."
Geithner, to be sure, is a far better performer than he was at the beginning (Kudos to media training guru Michael Sheehan, who has worked to transform Geithner). But in a hundred days of media-training or so Geithner still does not inspire confidence. And in this economic climate, it is all a confidence game until the stimulus package kicks in (if, in fact, it even ever does).
It is not inconceivable that Treasury Secretary might demand a bloated, over-confident asshole personality. Just like your typical Wall Street douchebag i-banker. That type of personality, oddly, gives sweet comfort to the markets and to leadership in the foreign capitals. The combination of a twitchy T-Sec and a weak economy are projecting anything other than strength in, of all places, China -- the rising power. From The Christian Science Monitor:
"US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Tuesday he had found "a lot of confidence" in the US economy among Chinese leaders he met on his two-day visit here. In other circles, however, skepticism was widespread.
"When Mr. Geithner told a student audience Monday that Chinese assets invested in Treasury bonds were 'very safe,' his intended reassurance drew loud and dubious laughter.
"A survey of 23 top Chinese economists, published in the daily Global Times on the eve of his arrival, found that 17 feared that Beijing's huge dollar holdings put China in "a very dangerous position."
"... Geithner also said Tuesday that the US would "do everything that is necessary to try to make sure we're sustaining confidence in US financial markets, not just in the United States but around the world."
"The Treasury secretary's reassurances were not enough for Xu Xiaonian, a professor at the China-Europe International Business School in Shanghai.
"'Talk is cheap,' he scoffs. 'If the US really wants to convince China that Treasury bonds are a safe investment, we need to see some credible measures,' such as inflation-linked interest rates."
Geithner's imperative, unfortunately, for the visit was to tout the relative strength of the U.S. economy. After this appearance Geithner may want to leave any further China visits to the State department, where, allegedly, there was an intra-cabinet point of friction. I don't think there will be any more such frictions as to who -- Clinton or Geithner -- has China in their portfolio.