If you're a regular peruser of headlines, you may have noticed something today. China and Apple both have enormous piles of money that they don't quite know what to do with. So report The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal in two entirely unconnected stories. Beijing is sitting on $3 trillion, a sum so huge it could actually hurt the Chinese economy by accelerating inflation. Apple, on the other hand, had about $60 billion late last year, and the sum is growing--eventually likely to push shareholders wondering about their money over the edge.
The Wall Street Journal's Shari Ovide reports that unlike its tech competitors, Apple "wants to hoard cash" so it can save up for "big acquisitions or other bold steps." Shareholders are a little annoyed the company isn't sharing the good fortune. "What is Apple going to buy for $60 billion or $70 billion, or even $80 billion? As it is, Apple could pay a one-time dividend of $20 billion, and still afford to buy Dell Inc."
Just for laughs, compare that questioning to the opening of Howard Schneider's story at The Washington Post: "What to do with $3 trillion? Bail out the euro so Europeans can keep buying stuff? Lock up mineral rights around the world? Spend it on imports? Sock it away under a mattress--or in U.S. Treasury notes--and let the pile keep growing?" Schneider reports that China's policy helps its export companies by keeping their prices low, but it's also meant a slower rise in living standards for Chinese. Money is tied up in the central bank, instead of being used in the economy. Despite having three times the cash as Japan, China's per capita annual income is just $3,000, putting it "deep in the ranks of the developing world."
Beneath the superficial similarities of shareholders/citizens wanting more money while the folks in charge hoard for a rainy day, of course, Apple's and China's fat bank accounts really aren't that similar. It's an interesting juxtaposition of stories though, no? And just maybe the reporting similarities have something to say about our anxiety when it comes to these large, powerful entities--particularly considering the reaction to the iPhone tracking story earlier today.