During the financial crisis following the September 2009 collapse of Lehman Brothers, the possibility that China would begin to sell off substantial portions of the more than $1 trillion worth of U.S. government bonds in its foreign exchange reserves was a nightmare scenario for the United States.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson called his old friend, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, and People's Bank of China Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan to ask Beijing to refrain from selling its holdings in U.S. bonds. Wang and Zhou relayed to Paulson China's position: "We won't sell, but we also won't buy until others begin to do so."

Shortly after this episode, Paulson visited Beijing and received some unsettling news. Apparently, during high-level talks Russia had proposed to China that both countries sell their holdings in Fannie Mae in order to force the U.S. to take emergency measures to bail out the troubled mortgage financing company. Both Russia and China held enormous sums in Fannie Mae bonds, meaning they could maximize the sense of crisis over the financial crisis by dumping their holdings. Paulson makes this revelation in his recent memoir, "Dealing with China." As Paulson writes, "I didn't know how serious the Russians were about their proposal ... but the thought that they might test us added to the restlessness of my sleepless nights."