香港:有关信任价值的思考 / Hong Kong: Reflections on the Value of Trust

香港:有关信任价值的思考

不久前,我在香港四季酒店主持了美国商会年会的首个分论坛讨论。

此次年会以“香港在中国新一轮改革中的作用”为题,而我所在分论坛的主题是“中国新商业环境下的经营之道”。

这两个议题都很贴近时势。

原因有三。首先,中国和世界都在焦急等待中国新一届领导人对金融及资本市场改革的政策导向;其次,已有明确迹象表明香港的作用正在发生改变;第三,中国的商业环境已经发生重大转变,而且还将持续下去。

回想去年年会的主题是“香港在中国‘十二五’计划中的作用”,非常应景。因为“十二五”是首次将香港和澳门纳入其中的五年计划。很多读者都知道,十二五计划将截止于2015年。

1993年,香港美国商会召开了首届年会,主题是“大中华区的商业机遇”。我不仅出席了那次年会,还有幸参与了主题的选定。当年,“大中华区”还是个全新的商业词汇,只有少数跨国企业为这个新划定的区域设立了业务单元。外企高管都好奇未来会产生哪些影响。而中国官员最初对这个词还有些敏感,后来就慢慢克服了。

1993年外国对华直接投资刚刚起步,中国对外出口也处在井喷前夜。那年,青岛啤酒成为在香港IPO的第一家中国内地企业。彼时,离香港回归还有5年,大部分中国大型国有企业都臃肿不堪,经营不善。

青岛啤酒的上市大获成功,共筹得8.89亿港元,但和之后中国工商银行IPO筹得的160亿美元相比,真是小巫见大巫。如今,在港交所上市的内地企业已接近750家,占市场资本总额的2/3以上。

所以,就中国经商环境仅20年间发生的巨变展开讨论,一点也不为过。展望未来,居民城镇化、基础设施扩张、经济向消费型转变将成为引领变革的主要动力。

香港美国商会当天的日程安排得宜,除两位著名嘉宾发表主旨演讲外,其余都是分组讨论,参与者众,交流坦诚而富有意义。会议有合作媒体出席,内容公开对外发布。与会代表、分论坛嘉宾以及演讲人包括政府高官、企业领袖和学者。

现在想要在中国其他城市取得这样的会议效果并不容易。

当天,会议还着重讨论了香港在人民币国际化中与日俱增的作用。一位著名的中国银行业代表表示,目前的形势比较复杂混乱,急需有效的沟通机制。

谈及香港角色的转变,大家似乎都同意跨国企业及内地企业都开始以新的方式对香港加以利用。

中国企业不再把香港单纯视作筹集资金的踏板,而是越来越多地看到它在人才和专业知识上对实现全球化战略的辅助作用。

而跨国企业也在寻求利用香港的新模式。

会上举了几个例子,都是关于著名跨国企业把负责全球事务——包括全球或地区责任——的顶级高管安排在香港的事情。这是一个新动向,耐人寻味。

总之,香港处在一切行动的核心,基础设施极具吸引力,且效率较高(当然空气污染的确需要改善)。

另一个例子是,跨国企业正忙于应对如何为快速发展的众多内地城市提供有效服务的挑战,结果发现上海也许并非设立华南和西南服务基地的最佳地点。

这是自1993年来发生的又一起重大变化,当年面向消费者市场的外国企业只注重中国的四座城市:北京、上海、深圳、广州。20年过去,四大市场已被400多座城市包围,其它城市也在迎头追赶。

跨国企业普遍感觉,虽然中国内地仍对国外投资者抱欢迎态度,但与以往相比,这种欢迎已变得有选择、有条件和有保留,而且面对的国内竞争也更加激烈。

相比之下,跨国企业在香港的经营一如既往,那里的透明度以及大部分政府商业相关政策的可预测性都相对较高,法制及反腐制度健全,税制富有吸引力,移民政策合理,劳动力生产力高。

还有一个难以用价值衡量却极富价值的因素就是信任。个人或组织信任别人的意愿与规则的执行效力紧密关联,确保了受法律约束的承诺都会被兑现。在这方面,香港的相关体制仍保持着较高的可信任度。

那天的讨论提振了我对香港的信心。困难和陷阱固然很多,但我比较乐观,认为香港有能力、并且会以对自身和中国其他地区都有利的方式应对挑战。

Hong Kong: Reflections on the Value of Trust

The other day I chaired the first panel discussion at the annual Amcham Hong Kong China Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel.

The conference theme was “Hong Kong’s Role in China’s Next Round of Reforms”, and our panel was entitled “Managing in China’s New Business Landscape.”

Both are timely topics.

First, because China and the world are anxiously awaiting new policy directions from China’s new leadership relating to financial and capital market reforms. Second, because clear signs are emerging that Hong Kong’s role is changing. And third, China’s business landscape has changed dramatically and will continue to do so.

Thinking back to last year’s conference theme, it was “Hong Kong’s Role in China’s 12th Five Year Plan”. This seemed timely, since #12 is the first Five Year Plan that included Hong Kong and Macau. As many readers will be aware, 2015 is the final year in that plan.

Thinking back to the first Amcham Hong Kong China conference, in 1993, the theme was “Business Opportunities in the Greater China Region.” I was involved, and had a hand in selecting this theme. At the time, the term “Greater China” was brand new to the business lexicon. Only a handful of multinational companies had yet restructured to define this region as a new business unit. Foreign business execs were curious about what the future implications would be. There was, however, some initial sensitivity about this term among Chinese officials. Later, they got over it.

Foreign direct investment in China was just ramping up in 1993, and Chinese exports were in an early stage of their big boom era. That year, Qingdao Beer became the first mainland Chinese company to do an IPO in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was less than 5 years away from the handover. Most of China’s big State-Owned Enterprises were bloated and in very poor health.

Qingdao’s listing was considered very successful, raising HK$ 889 million, but it would later be dwarfed by subsequent Chinese IPOs such as ICBC’s, with US$16 billion raised. Today, nearly 750 mainland companies are listed on the Hong Kong Exchange, representing more than 2/3 of the market capitalization.

So it’s surely no exaggeration to talk about how the China business landscape has undergone dramatic changes in just 20 years. Looking forward, the ongoing pace of migration to urban centers, phenomenal expansion of basic infrastructure,and shift in balance to a consumption-lead economy will be some of the key drivers of change.

One of the benefits of the style of the Amcham Hong Kong one-day conference is that apart from two distinguished keynote speakers, the rest of the program is panel discussions with a lot of audience involvement. This enables frank and meaningful dialogue. Members of the working press were present, and the session was on the record. Delegates, panelists and speakers included senior government officials, corporate leaders, and academics.

Achieving the same outcome would be very challenging in other Chinese cities at the present time.

During the day there was much discussion on Hong Kong’s growing role in the internationalization of the RMB. One distinguished Chinese banker commented that the current situation is complex and confusing, highlighting the need for a more effective communications program.

As for Hong Kong’s changing role, there seems to be a consensus that both international companies and mainland Chinese companies are beginning to use Hong Kong in new ways.

Chinese companies are increasingly looking to Hong Kong not only as a staging point for raising capital, but for talent and expertise to assist with going global strategies.

International companies are looking to use Hong Kong in several new ways.

A number of examples were cited of major international companies basing very senior executives with global responsibilities — either overall corporate responsibilities or divisional ones — in Hong Kong. That’s new and interesting.

After all, Hong Kong is in the center of the action and has very attractive and efficient infrastructure (although we have a clear need to improve on the air pollution front).

Another example cited is that with international companies wrestling with the challenge of effectively servicing a fast-growing number of mainland cities, some have found that Shanghai may not be the ideal base from which to service large parts of South and Southwest China.

This is another example of the big changes since 1993, when foreign consumer marketers were essentially focused on only four Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Twenty years later, the majors are in entrenched in 400 cities, and others are playing a furious game of catch-up.

There is a sense among international business that while the welcome mat for foreign investors on the Chinese mainland is still there, it is a more selective, conditional and partial welcome than it once was, and there are much more powerful competing domestic interests at work.

By contrast, in Hong Kong it’s business as usual, with a relatively high degree of transparency and predictability in most areas of government policy as relates to business, a solid rule of law and anti-corruption regime in place, attractive tax and reasonable immigration policies, and a highly productive work force.

Another thing which is hard to put a value on, yet which is immensely valuable, is trust. The willingness to trust others, individually or organizationally, is closely intertwined with the efficacy of rules, enforcement and institutions which are responsible for ensuring that legally binding commitments are honored. In this respect, Hong Kong still benefits from relatively high level of perceived trust in its relevant systems.

The full-day discussion left me more bullish on Hong Kong than I had been. Sure, challenges and pitfalls are many, but I for one am optimistic. I think Hong Kong can and will rise to the challenge in ways that are beneficial for Hong Kong as well as the rest of China.


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