香港何去何从? / What Next for Hong Kong?

香港何去何从?

上世纪70年代中,香港走到了十字路口。自50年代起,香港的轻工业——包括纺织、制衣、玩具、家居用品、电子产品和塑料制品等——从无到有取得了飞速的发展;但来自亚洲四小虎当中其他三强,即韩国、台湾和新加坡的竞争也来势汹汹。

到了80年代末,随着内地实施改革开放,香港退出了上述角逐,转而利用自身在地理位置、基础设施、金融及文化方面的优势,逐渐变身为中国现代化进程中的重要媒介,并从轻工业切入,进而扩展到其他多个领域。

如今,这段历史已经尽人皆知,并且惠及多方:不仅让内地和香港受益良多,也使外国企业可以借助香港为桥梁进出中国内地市场。改革开放前30年,香港也成为内地最大的外商直接投资来源市场。

这期间,香港的制造业转移到了中国内地,先是珠三角,后来又深入到内陆多个地区。包括香港和澳门在内的珠三角率先成为推动中国经济发展的三驾马车之一,另外两驾马车是指上海所在的长三角和天津所在的渤海湾地区。

迄今为止,香港的GDP有93%来源于服务业,其比例之高在全球经济体中排名第一,足见香港在短短30年内,由轻工业生产基地转型为全球金融、贸易、海运以及物流中心的巨变。

与之对照的是,内地服务业在全国经济中仅占43%,即使在发展中国家也属较低水平。

中国已经认识到发展服务业的重要性,因此在十二五规划(12th Five-year Plan)中制定了要在2015年实现服务业在GDP中的比重从43%提高到47%的目标。这一目标的重要性包含了诸多因素,但至少可以创造新的就业机会,吸纳进城务工的农村劳动力,以及因出口困难而导致失业的人员,特别是那些底端的、劳动密集型行业的失业人员。

在中国经济现有的发展阶段,打造更具活力的服务业具有战略上的优先意义。尽管与80年代初相比,中国的经济已经取得了长足的进步,但在未来发展服务业的阶段中,香港将继续提供重要支持,并再次扮演媒介和伙伴的角色。

从界定上说,任何一个国家要发展服务业都比发展制造业更为复杂。服务业一般要求制度性更强,员工也需要具备更高的培训水平和更丰富的经验,还要有先进的法律体系,包括有效的执行和仲裁机制作为依托。

香港在这些方面传统悠久,资源丰富,吸引了大批内地企业来港投资设点,借以拓展国际和国内业务。

所以,在内地的需求和香港的供给之间,历史再一次出现了自然的巧合。正如泛珠三角商业委员会(Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council)的领导在2010年9月题为《香港在国家经济发展中的地位和作用》(Hong Kong’s Roles and Positioning in the Economic Development of the Nation)中首次提到的,如果一切顺利,香港将揭开经济发展和转型的新篇章。

无论就五年规划的历史还是十二五规划本身而言,这都是第一次将香港和澳门特区纳入其中。

中国改革开放前30年的巨大成就得益于过人的胆识和坚强的领导,未来也是如此。也许某些方面的困难还要更为复杂,但结果会同样精彩。

仅举一例,由于内地分销和供应链效率低下,内地消费者购买国货的零售价要比大多数国外市场的消费者高出至少20%,才能消化国内分销的高成本(即使与国外分销成本相比也是如此)。

换言之,提高分销、物流和供应链系统的效率不仅能让中国的生产商、销售商获利,也能让中国的消费者受益。

很明显,精明的香港商人已经从十二五报告风格迥异的路线图中看出了究竟,而且已经把宝押在了服务业上,将它视作下一步在内地发展的巨大机遇。

正如邓小平在经济改革计划中引入了经济特区的理念并以深圳先试先行,一些消息灵通的观察家也预测到下一步将迎来“特区中的特区”的新时代。也就是说,珠三角的前海、南沙、橫琴将成为新的改革试点,继而推广到内地市场。

请关注这些方面……

What Next for Hong Kong?

By the mid-1970s, Hong Kong was at a crossroads. Her light industrial manufacturing capabilities — textiles, garments, toys, housewares, electronics, plastics, etc. — had grown very quickly from a near-zero base since the 1950s; but ferocious new competition was gaining momentum among the other 3 members of the so-called Asian Tigers: South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.

By the end of the decade, along came China’s Open Door and Reform. Policy, and Hong Kong was off to the races, capitalizing on its strong geographical, infrastructure, financial and cultural advantages to become a major catalyst in China’s modernization, first in light manufacturing and eventually in a host of other fields.

That stage of history is well-known now, and it was clearly a win-win-win situation: good for China, good for Hong Kong and good for international businesses who could rely on Hong Kong as a bridge into and out of China. For the first 30 years of the reform. and opening era, Hong Kong was the largest source of foreign direct investment in China.

In the intervening years, Hong Kong’s manufacturing jobs have migrated into the Chinese mainland, first to the Pearl River Delta and eventually to many diverse areas further inland. The Pearl River Delta region, including Hong Kong and Macau, emerged as the first of China’s three economic engines; along with the Yangzi River Delta region, including Shanghai; and the Bohai region, including Tianjin.

As of today, 93% of Hong Kong’s GDP depends on the service sector, which is one of the highest ratios of any economy in the world; and solid proof of the enormous transformation of Hong Kong in the short span of 30 years from a light manufacturing base into a global center of finance, trading, shipping, and logistics.

By contrast, the service sector’s share of China’s economy is 43%, which is relatively low, even among developing countries.

Acknowledging the importance of growing the service sector, China’s 12th Five-year Plan calls for service’s share of GDP to grow from 43% to 47% by 2015. This is important for many reasons, not least of which is job creation, including the absorption of migrants from rural to urban areas, and those who may have their jobs displaced by challenges to China’s export sector, particularly at the lower, more labor-intensive end of the spectrum.

Creating a more vibrant service sector is a strategic priority at this stage in the development of China’s economy. Even though China is vastly more advanced and developed economically than it was in the early 1980s, Hong Kong once again has an important supporting role to play in this next phase, as a catalyst and partner in growing the mainland’s service sector.

By definition, growing any country’s service sector is more complex than growing the manufacturing sector. Services tend to be more highly regulated and require staffing by people with higher levels of training and experience, as well as the support of more advanced legal infrastructure, including effective enforcement and judicial recourse.

Hong Kong has a strong tradition and ample resources in these areas, a fact which has attracted many mainland companies to set up shop there, in support of international as well as domestic business development initiatives.

So there is again a historic and natural symbiotic fit between what China needs and what Hong Kong has to offer. If all goes well, this will herald the start of an exciting new chapter in Hong Kong’s economic growth and adaptation, as leaders of the influential Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council first pointed out in their excellent September, 2010 Recommendation Report entitled “Hong Kong’s Roles and Positioning in the Economic Development of the Nation”.

It is historic in and of itself that the 12th Five-Year Plan incorporates — for the first time — the Hong Kong as well as Macau S.A.R.s

Just as the dramatic success of the first 30 years of China’s Reform. and Opening era required bold vision and leadership, the next chapter will as well. In some respects the challenges are more complex, yet the rewards will be equally dramatic.

To take but one example, inefficiencies in domestic distribution and supply chain within China are so great that the retail cost to the consumer in China of a given locally made product must be at least 20% higher than the price to the consumer price in most overseas markets, just to cover the higher domestic distribution costs (even as compared with overseas distribution costs).

In other words, improving the efficiency of distribution systems, logistics, and supply chains will not only benefit producers and distributors of products in China, but Chinese consumers as well.

It’s clear that the smartest players in the Hong Kong business community have already learned from the dramatically different road map which is contained in the 12th 5-Year Plan, and placed their bets on the development of the service sector as the next great opportunity for them in China.

Just as Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform. plan incorporated the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) concept, beginning with the Shenzhen SEZ, some well-informed observers predict that the next thing to watch for will be a new era of “SEZs within SEZs”. In other words, places in the Pearl River Delta like Qinhai, Nansha, and Hengqian where new experimental reforms will be launched as a precursor to rolling them out more widely in the domestic market.

Watch this space…


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