No, China can't hurt us much by selling Treasuries
China holds over $1.2 trillion of U.S. Treasury securities. Some analysts say China can dump those Treasuries on world markets and drive up U.S. interest rates. This will also drive up mortgage rates, damage the U.S. housing market, and possibly drive the U.S. economy into a recession. Analysts call this China’s “nuclear option” when it comes to fighting a financial war with Trump.
There’s only one problem.
The nuclear option is a dud. If China did sell some of their Treasuries, they would hurt themselves because any increase in interest rates would reduce the market value of what they have left.
Also, there are plenty of buyers around if China became a seller. Those Treasuries would be bought up by U.S. banks, or even the Fed itself. If China pursued an extreme version of this Treasury dumping, the U.S. President could stop it with a single phone call to the Treasury.
That’s because the U.S. controls the digital ledger that records ownership of all Treasury securities. We could simply freeze the Chinese bond accounts in place and that would be the end of that. So, don’t worry when you hear about China dumping U.S. Treasuries. China is stuck with them. It has no nuclear option in the Treasury market.