【英语中国】香港的挑战

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所属分类:双语中国

2013-12-11 08:55

小艾摘要: One of the traditional pastimes in Hong Kong is worrying out loud about whether the Chinese territory is losing ground to Singapore as a global financial centre.But recently, Singapore has been shunte ...
One of the traditional pastimes in Hong Kong is worrying out loud about whether the Chinese territory is losing ground to Singapore as a global financial centre.

But recently, Singapore has been shunted out of the conversation in favour of Shanghai, mainland China’s financial capital. Everyone from Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man, to diners at local restaurants, are asking if the newly unveiled Shanghai free-trade zone will eventually eat Hong Kong’s lunch.

Whether the Shanghai project will become the capital markets equivalent of Shenzhen – the special zone created by Deng Xiaoping to launch economic reforms three decades ago – is impossible to tell, as details remain vague. Even John Tsang, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, says he is unclear.

“I think you’re probably in a better position to tell me what you think the Shanghai free-trade zone is,” Mr Tsang jokes. “But?.?.?.?any time that China opens up a bit and liberalises certain parts of the country, or brings in a new reform that serves to open up the market a bit, it must be good for Hong Kong.”

Many people less sanguine than Mr Tsang still believe that the zone is unlikely to pose a near-term challenge, partly because of the strength and independence of Hong Kong’s legal system.

But the undercurrent of concern points to mounting anxiety in Hong Kong about the future of the former British colony as it moves towards full integration with mainland China in 2047. With low personal tax rates and an enviable unemployment rate of 3.3 per cent, Hong Kong remains an attractive place to work, particularly for European expats drawn to the dynamism of China that is missing at home.

But the territory is grappling with a host of problems – everything from poor air quality and sky-high property prices to a growing gap between rich and poor – that pose challenges for its competitiveness. “People open to an international move tend to be black or white on coming to Hong Kong,” says Richard Boden, a senior headhunter at Heidrick & Struggles.

“They either say ‘hell yes’ or say ‘no’ for a variety of reasons, mostly to do with flat size, a lack of school places and air quality.”

The labour market is also changing in ways that benefit some groups at the expense of others, and particularly professional locals who are having increasing trouble finding jobs with high enough salaries to pay the rent. “A lot of people say that in the most lucrative banking sector, Hong Kongers are losing jobs to the Zhangs and the Wangs who are US-educated, UK-educated, says Regina Ip, head of the New People’s party, referring to common surnames in mainland China. “There’s a sense of being encroached on, losing competitiveness – almost a rising identity crisis.”

Alex Trott, a managing director at the consultancy Accenture, says that western expatriates who do not have mainland China Rolodexes are also facing more competition in Hong Kong, although he believes there are still not enough mainland Chinese with the experience that US and European financial institutions demand.

Hong Kong is also facing headwinds from the relative economic slowdown in China, which has hurt trade – a huge component of the territory’s economy – and financial deal flows.

The territory cemented its reputation as a key financial centre for China-related deals in 2009 when it jumped to the top of the global league tables for initial public offerings, propelled by the flotation of Chinese companies. But it lost the crown in 2012, and is struggling to win it back, which has partly deflated optimism. Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce group, recently said it might take its $60bn-plus IPO to New York, because Hong Kong would not allow it to list with the ownership structure it wanted.

Hong Kong officials have made it clear they will not change the rules for one company, but in a sign that the territory is starting to worry about losing out, Mr Tsang and Charles Li, the head of the stock exchange, have both recently said that Hong Kong should have a serious conversation about whether its listing rules need to be changed.

One area where the city hopes to remain dominant is in the offshore renminbi trading and deposit market.

While other financial centres such as London and Singapore have recently announced deals with Beijing that make them more competitive – by boosting their ability to reinvest renminbi into assets in mainland China – experts say Hong Kong does not face a serious threat now, since it remains the key financial gateway between China and the world.

But Ms Ip stresses that while Hong Kong may not face an immediate challenge, it cannot afford complacency. She says that while foreign companies think the city is a “great place to do business”, they do worry whether the territory can remain competitive in the long term with China’s rise.

“Clearly, China is trying to clone more IFCs [international financial centres], and we can’t blame them for that,” says Ms Ip. “It’s a big country; they can’t have just one Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong is also having to consider other factors related to the rise of China, such as whether it maintains the 30-year old currency system that pegs its currency to the US dollar.

Some experts, including Joseph Yam, former head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, have suggested that the territory peg its currency to the renminbi because of the increased economic integration with the mainland.

Hong Kong is also gearing up for its biggest political challenge since the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.

As part of the handover agreement, Beijing has promised to give Hong Kong’s 7.1m citizens the right to elect their chief executive – who since handover has been chosen by roughly 1,200 well-connected business and political leaders – by 2017.

CY Leung, the current chief executive, and his team have come under criticism for not acting more quickly to start the constitutional change.

A group called Occupy Central plans to hold mass demonstrations next summer to try to force an outcome where Beijing does not have the ability to vet the slate of candidates.

Mr Tsang argues that while multinationals may have views on the issue, they are not preoccupied with the constitutional debate, saying, “businesses are a lot more concerned about the bottom line”.

But Ms Ip says foreign companies are worried that the protest movement could damage the territory’s reputation for stability. Asked why Hong Kong would suffer, given that its protests are generally among the most peaceful in the world, she says young people are increasingly angry about property prices, particularly as the gap between the rich and poor widens.

“Hong Kong is really an oasis of law and order compared with many parts of the world?.?.?.?If we damage that, we destroy our business opportunities.”

在香港,人们以往的“消遣”之一是大声表达对一个问题的担忧,即香港是否会逐渐丧失全球金融中心的地位、让位于新加坡。

但最近,香港人谈论的焦点已从新加坡转向中国内地的金融之都上海。从亚洲首富李嘉诚(Li Ka-shing)到香港餐馆的食客,所有人都在问:近期揭牌成立的上海自贸区会不会最终抢走香港的午餐?

由于细节尚不清楚,因此人们很难判断上海自贸区是否会像三十多年前邓小平为实施经济改革而创立的深圳特区一样,成为资本市场的“特区”。就连香港财政司司长曾俊华(John Tsang)也说自己不清楚这个问题的答案。

“我觉得你倒是可以跟我说说,你认为上海自贸区是什么,”曾俊华开玩笑说。“不过…任何时候中国加大开放力度、在部分区域放松管制、或是推出利于市场开放的新改革,对香港而言肯定都是好事。”

许多不像曾俊华那样乐观的人依然认为,上海自贸区近期不太可能对香港构成挑战,部分原因是香港拥有强大而独立的法律体系。

不过,当前这股不安情绪其实反映的是,随着“一国两制五十年不变”政策于2047年到期,人们对这块前英国殖民地前景的担忧在不断加深。由于个人税率低,失业率也低得令人嫉妒(仅为3.3%),香港仍是一处诱人的工作地,特别是对那些被中国发展活力吸引而来的欧洲侨民来说。在这些欧洲人的家乡,已经看不到这样的活力了。

但香港也正与许多问题抗争:从糟糕的空气质量到高不可攀的房价,再到不断拉大的贫富差距,这一切都对香港的竞争力构成了挑战。海德思哲(Heidrick & Struggles)的高级猎头理查德?博登(Richard Boden)说:“在是否去香港这个问题上,对国际流动持开放态度的人士有种非黑即白的倾向。”

“他们要么说‘该死,那就去吧’,要么以各种理由说‘不去’,理由多与人口密度大、学校资源少和空气质量差有关。”

劳动力市场也正在变化,这些变化虽然令某些群体受益,却损害了其他群体的利益——特别是香港本地的专业人士,他们越来越难找到一份薪水足够支付房租的工作。“很多人说,在最赚钱的银行业,香港人的饭碗正被曾在美国、英国接受教育的张三、李四们抢走。”香港新民党主席叶刘淑仪(Regina Ip)说。“有种被逐步侵蚀、竞争力丧失的感觉——几乎引发了日益严重的身份危机。”

埃森哲(Accenture)大中华区金融服务事业部董事总经理曹雅仕(Alex Trott)说,在中国内地没有人脉的西方侨民在香港也面临着更多的竞争,虽然他相信中国内地还没有多少人具备美国和欧洲金融机构要求的经验。

香港也面临着中国经济相对放缓的不利因素,这已冲击了香港的贸易与金融交易量。贸易在香港经济中占据很大的比重。

2009年,受中国企业上市推动,香港的IPO融资规模跃升全球排行榜首位,就与中国有关的交易而言,其重要金融中心的地位得到了稳固。但香港2012年丢掉了第一的宝座,并一直没能成功夺回,这在一定程度上打击了人们的乐观情绪。中国电子商务集团阿里巴巴(Alibaba)近期表示,由于香港不允许阿里巴巴按照其希望的所有权结构上市,它有可能放弃在香港逾600多亿美元的首次公开发行(IPO)计划,前往纽约上市。

香港当局已经明确表示,不会为了一家公司而改变规则。但有迹象表明,香港开始担心自己错失机会,曾俊华和香港交易所(HKEx)总裁李小加(Charles Li)近期都曾表示,香港应该就是否需要修改其上市规则开展一次严肃的讨论。

与此同时,香港希望继续保持其离岸人民币交易和存款市场的主导地位。

虽然伦敦和新加坡等其他金融中心近期宣布与中国达成协议,通过提高以人民币对中国内地资产再投资的能力而提升竞争力,但专家表示,香港目前还没有受到严重威胁,因为它仍然是中国内地和世界之间一个重要的金融枢纽。

但刘淑仪强调,即便香港眼下没有面临直接挑战,也决不能骄傲自满。她表示,虽然外企认为香港是个“做生意的好地方”,但它们的确担心,随着中国逐渐崛起,香港能否在长期内保持竞争力。

“显然,中国正在努力克隆更多的国际金融中心,这无可厚非。”叶刘淑仪说。“中国是个大国;中国不能只有一个香港。”

香港也不得不考虑其他与中国崛起有关的因素,比如香港是否要维持延续了三十年的港元与美元挂钩的汇率制度。

包括香港金管局(HKMA)前总裁任志刚(Joseph Yam)在内的一些专家建议,鉴于香港与大陆的经济融合日渐深入,香港应将港元与人民币挂钩。

与此同时,香港也在加紧准备应对自1997年回归以来最大的政治挑战。

根据中国全国人大常委会的相关决议,到2017年,香港可实行特首普选。回归以来,特首一直是由大约1200名有影响力的政界和商界领袖选出的。

有人批评现任香港特首梁振英(CY Leung)及其团队,称他们没有更快地行动起来,启动特首产生办法向《基本法》规定的普选过渡。

一家名为占领中环(Occupy Central)的组织计划于明年夏天举行大规模示威,试图迫使北京方面无法提名特首候选人。

曾俊华则认为,虽然各个跨国公司对此事可能有不同看法,但他们不会过分关注直选的争论。他说,“企业对最终结果的关注度要大得多”。

但叶刘淑仪表示,外企担心抗议示威运动可能损害香港社会以稳定著称的声誉。当被问及为何这些几乎是世界上最为和平的示威会有损香港时,她说,年轻人对高房价越来越愤怒,特别是目前贫富差距在扩大。

“与世界其他地方相比,香港真是一片法律和秩序的绿洲……如果我们破坏了这一点,我们就毁掉了自己的商机。”

译者/倏尘

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