美国《新闻周刊》:上海崛起 香港将成明日黄花? 中评社

最新一期美国《新闻周刊》(The Newsweek)刊文说,当中国决心捧上海为纽约,香港剩下的优势已不多,如不能另寻定位,将来难免会如前总理朱镕基所说,沦落为中国的多伦多。

  这篇题为《香港将成明日黄花?》(Will Hong Kong Become a Has-Been?)的文章说,亚洲最近流行一个话题:中国当局决心把上海捧为国际金融中心,香港的角色和地位很可能会成为明日黄花。

  文章说,尽管在全球金融海啸中,香港的金融体系因较少沾手CDS等稀奇古怪的衍生工具,而没有受到太大的损伤。然而,人们对香港前景的负面看法,并非基于市场的理由,而是出于政策方面的原因--中国国务院在4月明确宣布,将致力在2020年之前,把上海打造为国际金融中心;5月,国务院总理温家宝警告,香港的金融中心地位是“不进则退”。

  对于香港人来说,这是令人心寒的消息。因为来自内地的企业占了香港股市总市值的60%,每天总成交额的70%也是来自这批企业,更甚的是,它们当中不少是大型的国企,因此中国当局很容易就可以下令,让这些企业转移到上海去挂牌。

  中国希望打造上海成为国际金融中心,并非始自今日,早在上世纪90年代初已有过同样的尝试,但当时内地的金融资本制度还不够成熟,所以未竟全功。到了今天,沪深等股票市场已经更为完善,国企的股票更容易买卖,政府开始发行更多债券,人民币逐渐迈向自由流通,将可加强中国在外汇交易中的地位,而上海的银行亦已从香港处学到了够多的经验。

 与此同时,中国可以容许市场制度逐渐成熟,却不能容忍市场出现失控,所以北京政府欢迎的交易者不单单是要够实力(competent)的,更加是要能够顺从(compliant)的。要在上海达到这一目标,当然是比在香港去做更加得心应手,因为香港的游戏规则向来是以西方法制为基础。而在金融海啸肆虐的今天,全世界都倾向于中国的金融管制模式,中国自然就更有底气去嫌弃这个英式自由市场资本主义的东方堡迭。

  因此,香港需要为自己寻找新的角色,而这并不是陌生的事。因为在近50年来,香港就经历了由生产塑胶花(等低技术产品)的地方,转变为更高技术的制造业中心,再转变为环球金融中心。当然,作为金融中心,香港目前仍有自己的优势,包括完全自由流通的货币;而香港的主政者亦已意识到危机,例如最近任命了来自内地的李小加为港交所CEO,就是香港仍在奋力自强的一个例子。

  然而,当北京政府有了主意,答案就是显而易见的。因此香港的机遇将在于开发新的产业,包括为内地企业提供顾问服务,协助它们向海外扩张;或者是作为教育枢纽,为内地以至亚洲的企业输出大量MBA学生。无论如何,香港都需要面对政府治理和既得利益者等问题的挑战。近年不少人都批评,香港的大富豪可以随意改动市场条例,以配合自己的利益;而雷曼债券事件在香港爆发,导致大批投资者失去毕生积蓄,亦敲响了另一个警号。

  文章认为,香港的最后一个优势,是人们始终认同这是一个管治妥当、可以公平竞争的地方。如果连这点都不能保持,将来在上海成为中国的纽约之时,香港难免会如前总理朱镕基所说,沦落为中国的多伦多。

Will Hong Kong Become a Has-Been?

There has been buzz lately in Asia that Hong Kong may become a has-been. As the global financial crisis gathered speed last year, Hong Kong looked relatively well insulated from the crashing markets because its banks were not heavily exposed to credit default swaps and all those other funky instruments. But the buzz is about changing politics, not markets. In April, Chinese officials announced firmly that they would like to see Shanghai become a global financial center by 2020; in the same month, Premier Wen Jiabao warned that Hong Kong must raise its game or face decline. The news was chilling for many in Hong Kong, which serves as a gateway to China for investors and is almost entirely dependent on financial services. Some 60 percent of the market capitalization of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and more than 70 percent of its daily trading is in shares of Chinese mainland firms. Many of these are large state-run enterprises—the sort that leaders in Beijing could very easily order to trade in Shanghai instead.

Beijing pushed for Shanghai to play a bigger role as a financial center back in the early 1990s. But it didn’t take off then because Chinese financial capitalism was still relatively immature. Now the mainland markets in Shanghai as well as Shenzhen are more developed, major Shanghai banks having learned a lot from the experience of Hong Kong.

Shares in state-owned firms can be more freely traded, and the government is looking to create new kinds of securities. In the coming years, Beijing is expected to allow the yuan to trade more freely, which could give it a major role in international currency trading. But to allow markets to mature without completely losing control over them, Beijing needs traders that are competent, but also compliant—the sort it can reach and influence more easily in Shanghai than in Hong Kong, where market rules are still based on foreign law.

Chinese officials are also beefing up banking in Beijing, but given Shanghai’s historic position as a trading center and its broader reach in finance, it will likely remain the country’s key city of commerce. What’s more, the fact that the Shanghai faction in government lost power a few years back when a number of politicians were taken down for corruption means that Beijing can now better police and direct the city’s future development.

Finally, like most financial centers at the moment, Hong Kong is in a drastically weakened state. Amid the global crash, Hong Kong’s economy contracted by 7.8 percent in the first quarter of 2009, even as China’s GDP as a whole continued to grow. Now that the entire world is tipping toward Beijing’s model of state regulation, China may feel emboldened to sideline this eastern redoubt of British free-market capitalism.

So Hong Kong is searching for a new role once again. The city has adapted before—it went from selling plastic flowers 50 years ago to higher levels of manufacturing to being a global financial capital. It still has the advantage of a fully convertible currency, as well as rule of law, which remains unreliable on the mainland. And last week’s announcement that Charles Li, a JPMorgan banker with strong ties to the mainland, would take charge of the exchange in January was a sign that Hong Kong is trying hard to bolster its position. But with at least some of its old business likely to move to Shanghai and Beijing, the city needs to move beyond trading, and leaders know it. Speaking to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong recently, the city’s current stock-exchange chief, Paul Chow, acknowledged the challenge. ÒLook back over the past five years, and compare the state of [the] mainland China market in 2003 to the current state. Substantial improvements. And what will happen in the next five years? Ten years?Ó

If Beijing has its way, the answer is clear. Yet there are still opportunities for Hong Kong to rebrand itself, perhaps as a provider of consulting services to Chinese businesses—helping less-sophisticated enterprises from the mainland figure out how to sell themselves to an international audience as they expand abroad, or as an education hub, churning out M.B.A.s to work in top Chinese and Asian businesses. Either way, it will need to deal with some of the governance problems and issues of vested interests that have plagued it in recent years. Critics say Asian tycoons are able to bend market regulations to suit their whims here, and the city has yet to deal properly with its recent minibond scandal, in which many individual investors lost their life savings after unwittingly buying Lehman Brothers’ bonds through intermediaries. One of the last remaining advantages Hong Kong holds is the perception that it’s still a fairer, better-governed financial capital than Shanghai. If it can’t hold on to that, it will surely become, as former Chinese premier Zhu Rongji predicted a few years back, Toronto to Shanghai’s New York.

Foroohar is International Business Editor.

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