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Mr. Bernanke advised China to keep adhering to a more flexible currency policy it adopted this year under U.S. pressure, which has allowed the yuan to rise about 3 percent against the dollar. By some estimates, however, the Chinese currency still remains about 40 percent under what Mr. Bernanke described as an “appropriate market value.”

In a separate speech, Mr. Bernanke — a renowned scholar of the Great Depression — noted that one of the developments that deepened the 1930s downturn and led to global trade wars was the unwillingness of countries with big trade surpluses — including the United States — to make adjustments to limit those imbalances. His remarks were clearly aimed at China.

The Fed chairman’s unusual outspokenness appears to have been prompted by recent outbursts of criticism from top Chinese officials castigating the U.S. central bank for what Beijing views as too loose monetary policies.

The Fed’s announcement last month that it would purchase $900 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds in the next six months to try to spur faster U.S. growth set off a decline in the value of the dollar on world currency markets and a rise in key commodities priced in dollars, such as oil and copper.

China’s manufacturers are among the world’s heaviest users of such raw materials, thus the Feds moves have angered and inconvenienced China.

“The biggest force undermining the dollar is the U.S. Federal Reserve,” said Xiao Gang, chairman of the Bank of China’s Board of Directors in a recent opinion piece.

“It is high time for them to reconsider,” he said, calling the Feds easier-money policy “dangerous” because it runs the risk of setting off higher inflation.

China has been hit with a bout of inflation amid a rise in commodity prices and a red-hot property market, forcing the Chinese central bank to raise interest rates. Thus, the Fed’s policy has complicated Chinese efforts to slow inflation.

Mr. Xiao accused the Fed of “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies because the decline in the dollar has forced other countries, such as South Korea and Brazil, to try to limit the rise of their own currencies to avoid losing their share of the lucrative U.S. import market.

But he defended China’s policy of allowing only gradual gains in its own currency, saying a more aggressive shift in the exchange rate could be disastrous. He noted that Japan allowed its currency to rise too quickly in the 1980s, a move that contributed to its decades-long economic stagnation. He said China wants to avoid that fate.

The sharp exchanges between U.S. leaders and their Chinese counterparts come as labor unions, some U.S. businesses and prominent trade experts are calling for more aggressive action to counter China’s export strategies.

A coalition of U.S. exporters and trade unions is pushing for Congress to enact a bill that penalizes China by enabling the Commerce Department to levy countervailing duties on Chinese imports if it determines that China’s currency policy unfairly depresses the price of those imports.

The bill passed the House this fall, in a warning shot that prompted China to allow faster appreciation for a while. But that improvement proved transient and has once again tailed off as political pressure eased. Now the coalition is calling on the Senate to act on the legislation.

Lawmakers are adding to the pressure on the Obama administration in other ways. On Friday, 33 House members released a letter to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk demanding “meaningful objective commitments” with success criteria on such issues as intellectual-property rights and China’s opening its markets to U.S. goods.

“These criteria should include commercially meaningful metrics, such as increased U.S. exports to and sales in China,” read the letter, whose signatories included Reps. Sander M. Levin and Dave Camp of Michigan, the outgoing Democratic and incoming Republican chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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