Also, since China owns more than $1.1 trillion in U.S. debt, the country's officials won't want to risk doing anything to publicly undermine the value of its holdings. For example, while it issued a statement on the debt ceiling fight, China's official stance was tame. "We hope that the U.S. government adopts responsible policies and measures to guarantee the interests of investors," Hong Lei, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Thursday. [See a slide show of 6 consequences if the debt ceiling is not raised.]
Still, Kirk says that as China begins to diversify its own economy and become less dependent on exports, the economic relationship between the two nations will be different. "Their appetite for U.S. securities is declining," he says.
So, does it matter now what China thinks about American politics? Maybe not. What does matter is that Congress and President Obama find a solution for the debt crisis soon. "In the long run, this diminishes the stature of the United States of America," Morici says. "China doesn't have to do anything to do that."