Generation 40s – 四十世代

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抗歐美債危機 中港需有所為

Hong Kong Economic Journal
A02 | 要聞社評 | 社評
2011-10-22

中國副總理李克強八月中訪港時,宣布三十六項惠港措施,特別是在「十二五」規劃框架下,鞏固及提升了本港作為國際金融、貿易及航運中心地位;李克強還勉勵鞭策特區要「有所作為」,財政司司長曾俊華訪京之行,獲得中央多個部委在RQFII、「小型港股直通車」等多方面的進展。

經與內地央行、證監會等多個部門會面後,對李克強早前的「送禮」清單,有了更詳盡的跟進落實,包括被喻為港股小型直通車的港股ETF,預計短期內可在內地上市。此外,有關推出人民幣合格境外投資者(RQFII)的技術細節,相信亦將水到渠成,既有利於本港人民幣離岸市場的建設,亦可加強兩地的金融互補。

在今年的「十二五」規劃綱要中,港澳台首次被單列新增為一個章節,反映中央支持香港的政策,在互利雙贏的前提下,更具體化及具實效操作性。特別是面對目前歐、美經濟可能再陷衰退的複雜形勢下,本港更應摒棄「被規劃」等思維,改用更積極、「有所作為」的心態,擁抱並借助這股得天獨厚的東風,強化香港作為人民幣離岸中心地位等難得機遇,才有望在目前國際金融動盪局面下,減低衝擊及另闢蹊徑。

除了跟進落實李克強訪港時公布的惠港措施外,國家商務部支持本港參與多邊合作及區域經濟合作,亦大大有助港商開拓新商機,由昔日的單打獨鬥硬闖,變為有強大的國家在背後支援。

在二○○九年雷曼金融危機以來,中國一方面改變太倚賴出口貿易的經濟模式,改為較傾斜至擴內需方面,但為填補歐、美、日市場的放緩,已積極開拓建立與東盟及金磚五國集團間的經貿往來。

溫家寶總理昨天在廣西南寧的東盟投資峰會開幕禮上就指出,中國成為東盟第一大貿易夥伴;而東盟亦為中國第三大貿易對手,雙方的經貿合作互補性強,已處歷史上最活躍時期。溫總還承諾鼓勵國內企業參與東盟發展上的金融、技術、市場等方面支持,更將推進亞洲債券市場發展,希望逐步建立穩定、成熟的地區資本市場,其目的正是要增強中國與東盟地區應對國際金融風險的能力。因此,若本港能獲國家的背書以至納入為商務談判中一員, 對港百利而無一害。故更須加快CEPA8(「內地與港關於建立更緊密經貿關係的安排」補充協議八)的簽署,以分享相關成果及龐大商機。

繼內地企業寶鋼先拔頭籌,將來港發行六十五億元人民幣債券後,中央也同意制訂在港長遠發行人民幣國債的安排,並可能在將來發行較現時三至五年期為長的人民幣國債。這不僅對本港建構人民幣離岸中心以至債券中心有極為重要的戰略意義,而對內地而言,同樣可加快人民幣國際化步伐,更可彌補現時採取緊縮貨幣政策下內地各業資金短絀、以發行長債集資的需求。

以今年前三季為例,內地包括各項貸款、發債、新股上市集資等的社會融資總量共達九萬八千億元,同比少增一點二六萬億元,當中又以銀行的新增人民幣貸款減幅較大,一至九月共貸出五點六八萬億元,同比少貸五千九百七十七億元,令部分中小企被迫借高利貸,埋下現時資金鏈可能斷裂的連鎖危機。銀行自身亦捉襟見肘,今年來已有十四家銀行發行次級債券補充資本,總額逾二千零七十六點五億元。此外,中國目前的國際資本負債結構失衡,美國在華的直接投資(FDI)回報率高達百分之三十三,但中國買美債的回報率僅百分之一至百分之三,還要冒滙率貶值的風險。因此,加快審批內地企業來港發人民幣債券以至年期較長的人民幣國債,都有利中港互利共贏。

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凡夫俗子越獄到中環

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C01 | 今日焦點 | 忽然文化 | By 占飛
2011-10-22

小時候睇過一套西片,戲名好似係《史密夫先生去華盛頓》,劇情早已忘記得一乾二淨,但裏面有句對白,到現在都記得一清二楚:「Lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for」(只有註定失敗的抗爭才是正義之戰)。

放工經過滙豐銀行總行,本來想贈這金句畀「佔領中環」的示威者,卻感覺到現場洋溢着嘉年華會的節日氣氛,示威者的面上,也看不到「知其不可為而為之」的無奈與悲壯。

看着示威者在他們的「佔領範圍」內打羽毛球、剪頭髮和搞音樂會,方才明白他們要改變的其實不是不公不義的社會,而是自己營營役役的生活。「佔領中環」運動給予這批原本身處社會邊緣的人士,一個超越返工放工的平淡生活的崇高目標,所謂「higher purpose」。從這個角度看,對示威者而言,與其說這是一場社會運動,倒不如說是一個讓他們從囚禁凡夫俗子的困境裏神奇越獄的黃金機會。

忽然成名

在這方面,佔領中環運動跟規模大得多,也激進得多的反高鐵運動一樣,都是快樂抗爭。他們要慶祝的,是他們突然由黑白變彩色的「新生活」。他們要恭喜的,是終於嘗到權力滋味的自己。從被社會遺忘、無發言權的弱勢社群,一躍成為社會良心和媒介寵兒,「忽然成名」的示威者或多或少會有一種要在全城目光下「做齣好戲」的使命感。

佔領金融中心的反金融霸權運動,由美國傳到香港,是一個值得研究的社會和文化現象。美國雜誌《紐約客》的作者Malcolm Gladwell在《臨界點》(The Tipping Point )一書中指出,要了解一個平地一聲雷、突然變得嚴重的社會問題,或者像野火一般蔓延起來的社會或文化現象,最好是把它當作傳染病來研究;因為意念、產品和信息的普及,跟病毒的傳播有很多相似的地方。

潮流趨勢

Gladwell 在書中舉了幾個例子:品牌HushPuppies的銷售在1995年從以往一年賣出3萬雙激增到430萬雙;紐約市從1992年開始犯罪率急劇下降,由一個臭名遠播的危城變成一個相對安全的城市。這樣像「病毒」般具傳染性、在極短時間內發生的劇烈社會改變就是社會學家所說的「臨界點」。

目前,所謂「佔領中環」,不過是一百幾十人在銀行出面的公眾地方「make t hemselves athome」;反金融霸權的意念、信息和行動顯然沒有到達「傳染」大多數人的「臨界點」。可是,不要忘記,潮流和趨勢總是由極少數人身上開始的,社會學家稱之為「少數原則」(The Law of the Few)。按Gladwell的分析,只要反金融霸權的理念、價值和行動得到社會上所謂「專家」(Mavens)和意見領袖的肯定和讚揚,再由具四通八達社會脈絡的「聯繫人」(Connectors)鼓吹;最後加上熱心「推銷員」(Salesmen)的宣揚和推廣,它有朝一日成為愈來愈多人參與的社會潮流,並非無法想像的事情。

撰文:占飛

財團寫手假扮知識分子

香港不是沒有「專家」和「意見領袖」,但他們多是為傳媒提供sound bites的 talking heads,而非有足夠道德權威、視野與公信力去一錘定音的公共知識分子。

在媒體的大力炒作和小圈子的互相吹捧下,香港從不缺乏才子、名筆和名嘴。

可是這些所謂媒體精英和知識分子的寫作,多是理論的硬套和名詞的賣弄﹔等而下之的就是name-dropping、無病呻吟或者對自己肚臍的凝望;甚至強詞奪理、潑婦罵街,將偏見和無知假扮成事實和權威等下三流手段,在他們的文章和言論中也屢見不鮮。

對這些「另類公共知識分子」,「公共」的含義就是在媒體曝光,所以他們總是「不甘人後」地在電台電視大放厥詞、在報章口誅筆伐。在謀取個人最大利益的大前提下,他們紛紛去當有錢佬和大財團的顧問、主筆、文膽和寫手,在財團豢養下扭曲自己的良知。這些人絕對不配稱為公共知識分子(public intellectual),卻是普通人(說得難聽一點是庸眾)心目中的知識分子(public’s intellectual)。

改變現狀阻撓多

也不要高估公共知識分子的影響力。在美國,公共知識分子是名人的一個特殊品種,享有很高的社會地位。語言學教授和政論家NoamChomsky、得過諾貝爾獎的經濟學家和專欄作家Paul Krugman,以及紀錄片導演 Michael Moore都開腔支持「佔領華爾街」運動,但又同時對這個運動能夠取得實效表示悲觀。

人本來對於改變就有本能上的抗拒,心理學家稱之為「inertia for change」。要改變現狀和建制更加困難,因為不但現狀和建制的既得利益者會諸多阻撓,就連很多現狀和建制的受害者和被剝削者,都會認為「凡存在的,都是合理的」。他們沒有讀過黑格爾,這樣想因為人是習慣和規範的動物,而習慣和規範的最大特點,就是複製自己和自我延續的能力。


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Shake-up ahead

South China Morning Post
Opinion
2011-10-19

Andy Xie argues the economic system in the United States is rigged in favour of an elite, and the mounting cost of living for most Americans – and others elsewhere – is laying fertile ground for revolution

Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union, the world is encountering another wave of revolution. What happened in the Middle East this year is a prelude to what may occur in large developed economies, especially the United States, in 2012. That’s because revolution occurs when the existing system cannot generate changes to deal with ongoing crises.

Among the rich economies, the US is the most vulnerable to a revolutionary movement. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement is spreading across America. The grim statistics tell the story: nearly 10per cent of US households have lost homes to foreclosure since 2008; 28 per cent of homeowners with mortgages have negative equity; 25 million people who want to work are unemployed or underemployed; and real median household income has fallen by 10 per cent since 2007. To rub it in, the average premium for the household of employer-sponsored health insurance has risen by 9 per cent this year – about 28 per cent of the median household income. For lots of folks, joining the revolution at least means shelter in a park and warm food.

The US won the cold war in 1989, so how could it have fallen so low merely two decades later? A rigged game to enrich the powerful at the expense of everyone else is to blame. It is not even crony capitalism. The US stock market has done poorly over the past two decades. The capitalists – the shareholders – have not done well. Only the few at the top have benefited from the rigged game.

The US spends 17 per cent of gross domestic product on health care, double that of other developed economies but with a less healthy population. The US health care system is really a rigged game to benefit people like doctors, hospitals and health care managers.

Finance, now the target of Americans’ fury, accounted for about 8 per cent of GDP at the peak, twice the historical average. But, the shareholders of the big financial institutions have lost huge amounts. The extra 4 per cent of GDP had gone to financial sector executives. And when the property bubble burst in 2008, the rigged system used the occasion to rip the people off again, using taxpayers’ money to bail out collapsing financial institutions.

The US Senate has just passed a bill to impose tariffs on Chinese imports to penalise China for holding the renminbi too low. Lawmakers are trying to divert the American people’s fury towards China. The fact is that the US will spend US$2.7 trillion on health care this year, while the US trade deficit with China is likely to top US$300 billion. Cheap Chinese goods have helped Americans to cope with living costs skyrocketing due to the rigged system. If there is a trade war between China and the US, both will be hurt, but the US will suffer more.

The ruling class in the US won’t give up on their own. They must be pushed out. This is why mass movements like Occupy Wall Street are necessary for the US economy to recover.

Hong Kong, despite strong economic growth in recent years, is facing more potential for social upheaval than even in 2003. Hong Kong uses property to tax people and benefit vested interests. It maintains high prices through land control; even though Hong Kong has plenty of land, the government artificially limits the supply to maintain high property prices. Hong Kong’s banking system gets generous treatment for making mortgage loans, turning it into a property bubble machine.

The Hong Kong government is hoping to contain the people’s fury, promising a few thousand subsidised properties many years down the road. The authorities should release enough land to build a million flats now. They are missing the last chance to maintain social peace. It shows that Hong Kong’s ruling elite cannot relate to the people any more.

Beijing has been introducing property tightening policies to contain the middle-class fury that threatens national stability. Even though China has had tremendous economic growth in the past five years, few people feel that things are better. The reason is that vested interests are taxing people through political power. The monetary resources are flowing to the government through high property prices, high fees and taxes. Obviously, the money that the government spends goes first through vested interest groups. While the central government seems determined to rein in the property bubble, many local governments and, of course, vested interest groups, are exerting pressure on Beijing to loosen up. If Beijing buckles, China, too, can expect revolution.

In the two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a self-appointed elite, best represented by the Davos crowd, has ruled the global economy through financial games, taking money from the masses through power and covering up their acts by creating bubbles. The real problem that plagues the global economy is that this ruling elite wants to keep the game going rather than make an exit. The people of the world must revolt and rid these parasites for good.


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另一類間諜電影

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C04 | 品味旅遊 | 回眸英倫 | By 毛羨寧
2011-10-22

不知從那時開始,上電影院變成了活受罪的事情。無論影院的設備有多豪華,總會遇上一些不停談話的男女。有時候看一齣喜劇,自己陶醉在其中,身旁的觀眾卻木訥呆着不笑。我以為自己失去跟其他觀眾一同為電影着迷、一起哭笑的感覺了,誰知到倫敦英國電影學院(British Film Institute)看新上映電影《鍋匠.裁縫.軍人.間諜》(Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ),竟誤打誤撞上了一堂大師班。

《鍋匠.裁縫.軍人.間諜》講述冷戰期間,退了休的情報長史瑪萊(George Smiley) 奉命找出英國秘密情報局MI6的雙重間諜。正如電影名字指出,最高層的四個領導人之中,有一人是莫斯科的敵方間諜。但這四人都是跟史瑪萊共事多年的夥伴,是辦事能力過人、受他尊重的舊同事,一向低調的史瑪萊只能默默地在別人的影子下查案。英國電影學院播放這齣電影當天,請來了導演、編劇和兩位男主角加利奧文(Gary Oldman)和老前輩約翰赫特(John Hurt)到場分享拍攝經歷。

英式含蓄令人懷念

《鍋匠.裁縫.軍人.間諜》的名字,對七十年代長大的人來說已是家喻户曉,因為這是著名間諜小說大師約翰勒卡雷(John Le Carré)在1974年出版的暢銷書,早在1979年改編為電視連續劇,由英國備受尊崇的男演員亞歷吉尼斯(Alec Guinness)飾演主人公史瑪萊情報長,史瑪萊更是勒卡雷另外五本小說中的核心人物。把耳熟能詳的故事重新包裝,自然引起互相比較的壓力。加利奧文說,他知道自己被選上為史瑪萊的時候正是午夜,興奮若狂的從熟睡中醒來,但半小時之後便開始自我懷疑——「我憑什麼演好這個重要的角色?」結果徹夜難眠地思量,最後向導演發了電郵說答應演出,導演立刻回覆了一個笑臉符號(A smiley emoticon),幽默地呼應了史瑪萊這姓氏!

我想念英國人的含蓄,不用口若懸河逐一解釋自己所想所做的。頂尖人物和專家來跟電影愛好者互相說說笑,就如平等的知識交流,沒有教訓的意味。這種對白不多、節奏緩慢的電影,是典型英國化的獨門秘技。電影中沒有暴力或色情場面,甚至只有一次槍戰。可能是承繼了小說神秘懸疑的情節——描寫有血有肉的故事人物是作者勒卡雷的寫作特色,藉以揭露自己在秘密情報局工作時不為人知的國家計謀。據說,他的確曾被另一位雙面間諜出賣給蘇聯情報機關KGB,而史瑪萊的外形則是根據牛津大學林肯學院院長葛林而寫成。所以,作者所形容的情報局首領也不像現代大部分的英雄式間諜,反而是一個矮矮胖胖的中年人,是架着眼鏡、愛讀十七世紀德國文學著作的牛津大學畢業生,看上去只像一個老實的銀行小職員。史瑪萊不但不像外號「007」的邦德角色那樣到處留情,竟連妻子都離開了他。不過,寡言、不造作的表達方式自然吸引某一類人。導演Tomas Alfredson說:「沉默本身就是一種對白,能推動觀眾思考和發揮想像力。」我跟那些在電影院外排隊買《鍋匠.裁縫.軍人.間諜》戲票的人,大概就是同類吧。

毛羨寧


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Wenzhou’s woes are a sign of things to come if essential reforms are ignored

South China Morning Post
Opinion
2011-10-21

Hu Shuli says the fiasco in Zhejiang reflects a deeper malaise in the economy resulting from market barriers for the private sector and curbs on alternative financing

Recent news that scores of business owners in Wenzhou had fled or gone into hiding after their business failed for lack of credit set alarm bells ringing. Premier Wen Jiabao himself visited the city, for so long a cradle of private enterprise, and on October 12 chaired a State Council meeting on developing more appropriate financing policies and other relief measures for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Zhejiang province also introduced initiatives recently to improve financial services, regulate private lending and support the development of SMEs. Public expectations for the roll-out of financial reforms, starting with Wenzhou, are high.

The government so far has acted quickly to tackle the immediate problems, but the root of the malaise remains. While the Wenzhou crisis seemed to strike without warning, it is the result of long-standing contradictions in the Chinese economy, such as a decline in the real economy, high market barriers for privately owned business and long-term curbs on private financing.

In short, the Wenzhou crisis is a warning to China of a wider and more severe economic problem. Measures made to tackle this particular storm should apply to the whole country. We badly need a basket of reforms to fundamentally solve the problem; putting out bushfires is no long-term solution.

The significance of Wenzhou’s economic model is one reason for the considerable focus now on its problems.

Since the reform and opening up of China began, two major models of economic development outside the route of state-owned enterprises have made a name for themselves: the Jiangsu model and the Wenzhou model. The former blurs the lines of party, government and business to spur growth. Given access to abundant government credit, village and township enterprises using this model boomed for a time. But as the market economy developed, its many shortcomings became evident.

The Wenzhou model is purely privately driven. Entrepreneurs took the route of family industries and professional markets, focusing on consumer products, mostly daily necessities, to build a model of “small products for large markets”. The free flow of its capital, labour and technology made it a far superior model to Jiangsu’s. This is why people have long held Wenzhou’s example in high esteem.

But the recent spate of business collapses has exposed the Achilles heel of the Wenzhou model. The storm began when new nationwide banking policies aimed at cooling the property market created a sudden dearth of credit. Wenzhou’s private-sector economy, which has long lacked the support of state-owned financial institutions, had to resort to private financing, which itself was struggling to survive official curbs. The results were extremely high financing costs and risk. The shortage of capital and invisible market entry barriers, among other factors, prevented manufacturers from upgrading. Wenzhou’s predominantly low-tech manufacturing sector, with its focus on imitation rather than innovation, became uncompetitive.

The city’s entrepreneurs have long been conscious of these problems, but with little access to reliable capital they could find no way out. Since the outbreak of the global financial crisis, prospects have been grim for such mainland exporters. This in turn only encouraged entrepreneurs to turn to high-yield but risky speculation. But as the housing market regulations took hold on lending, Wenzhou was the first to fall, and spectacularly so.

Obviously, such systemic problems are not restricted to Wenzhou, and pose a challenge to China’s programme of reforms. Overcoming barriers to monopolised domestic markets was reportedly the most vocal demand of Wenzhou’s entrepreneurs at the recent forum convened by the premier. Notwithstanding State Council directives to develop private enterprise and investment, implementing these changes has been slow and generally ineffective. Efforts to advance and regulate private-sector funding have met a similar fate.

In recent years, demographic changes, rising labour costs and greater industrial transformation have eroded manufacturers’ returns. Business confidence has plunged. If this continues, China’s industrial production will suffer, and its attempt to transform its economic model from the world’s factory to a world market will fail. Wenzhou’s crisis is a consequence of delayed economic liberalisation. While state enterprises falter, so the private sector flounders as well.

The direction of reform is quite clear: the private-sector economy should be given fair treatment and private financing services the legal status to protect private assets. Only the political will of leaders will determine if reforms succeed.

Given the huge private pool of capital in Wenzhou and the efforts of different levels of government, Wenzhou’s crisis is not likely to become national. At the end of May, the national balance of private company finance was 3.38 trillion yuan (HK$4.1trillion), just 10.2 per cent of the total balance of private-sector renminbi business loans by private institutions.

The entrepreneurial spirit of Wenzhou will survive, but it must change with the times. This requires a sound institutional environment. Wenzhou should be given full support in its search for a solution.

This article is provided by Caixin Media, and the Chinese version of it was first published in Century Weekly magazine. http://www.caing.com