China pressures EU on debt, defends yuan

European Union

Leaders of the 17 European countries using the euro will meet later on Wednesday to try to pin down a comprehensive response to the escalating sovereign debt crisis.

"I hope that the measures the EU adopts can effectively counter debt problems that some countries are facing and help in recovering market confidence and promote stability in Europe," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

Doubts are emerging as to whether the plan, intended to reduce Greece's debt burden, fortify European banks to withstand bond losses, and scale up the euro zone rescue fund to prevent market contagion, will yield concrete steps.

China already has an estimated 600 billion euro ($834 billion) exposure to euro zone debt, courtesy of the 25 percent or so of its $3.2 trillion of foreign exchange reserves that analysts believe to be invested in euro-denominated assets.

China's relative lack of options on where to store its vast reserve of foreign exchange wealth give it strong reasons to press Europe to surmount divisions, contain the debt crisis and thereby protect Beijing's stake in its biggest trade partner.

The euro bloc's crisis has already taken a toll on Chinese exports, which grew at their slowest pace in seven months in September. Exports were a net drag on China's economic growth in the first nine months of this year.

China's top leaders have voiced regular support for European efforts to solve the debt crisis, though many analysts now say there are better ways for China to support Europe and its own economy than simply buying up high risk debt from euro zone governments struggling to stay solvent.

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that aims to pressure Beijing to raise the value of the yuan more quickly. The yuan has risen about 3.6 percent so far this year and 7.4 percent since it was depegged from the dollar in June 2010.

"Our policies fit our national situation and are beneficial to the stability and development of the global economy," Jiang said.

"Demanding the renminbi appreciate drastically over a short period of time is inappropriate. A slowdown in China's economy would decrease global demand, and would be detrimental to the world economy."

($1 = 0.719 Euros)

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ken Wills)