Germany’s pain is China’s gain at G-20

China has been having an uncomfortable time at the G-20 meetings lately. Not so at last weekend’s informal gathering in Mexico, when concerns about the yuan (CYB, quote) took a back seat to pressuring Germany about European bailouts.

As Wall Street Journal columnist Ian Talley pointed out, Sunday’s official statement from the G-20 finance ministers and central bankers didn’t discuss foreign exchange issues at all. This is a change from previous meetings, where the G-20 has consistently urged Beijing to appreciate the yuan at a faster rate.

China is taking advantage of the respite, and has indicated that its currency will be plateauing in 2012 and 2013. It’s also shown a generous hand to the Europeans, offering to support the IMF in its efforts to battle the European debt crisis. G-20 officials say Beijing may ultimately contribute as much as $100 billion to the bailouts.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner praised Beijing’s economic reforms. “China has played I think a really responsible, stabilizing role, despite its relative newcomer status,” he said.

Germany could only wish for such gentle handling. It went to Mexico urging G-20 nations to find fresh money for the IMF’s crisis fund. It got replies like this email from Jim O’Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs.

Europe “doesn’t really need any outside money,” O’Neill wrote. “It needs their own policy makers, especially Germany, to show leadership.”

Ouch.