In a useful anti-austerity editorial the NYT makes the mistake of equating the trade surpluses of China and Germany. There is a fundamental difference between these countries. China is a fast growing developing country. In standard economic theory we would expect that it would be a capital importer (meaning it has a trade deficit) since capital gets a much higher return in China than elsewhere. The fact that China and other developing countries are growing by running large trade surpluses and exporting capital reflects the enormous failure of the IMF in setting up a workable international financial system.

On the other hand, it would be expected that a relatively slow growing wealthy country like Germany would have a trade surplus, although not necessarily with other wealthy countries, as is now the case in the euro zone. The Germans apparently have not yet come to grips with the accounting identity that implies that if they run persistent trade surpluses with the other euro zone countries, then Germany will have to continually lend them more money. The only way to avoid this situation would be if the deficit countries within the euro zone had massive surpluses with non-euro zone countries.