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中国时间: 08:23 2016年12月11日星期日

何清涟: 美资回流:中美友好的重要纽带开始松动-中美关系变化之回溯(二)


编者按:这是何清涟为美国之音撰写的评论文章。这篇特约评论不代表美国之音的观点。转载者请注明来自美国之音或者VOA。

如前所述,中美关系发生变化的一个重要原因,是诸多美国跨国公司巨头相继从中国市场撤出。中国方面只承认美资有撤出的,但不承认撤资“成潮”。美国波士顿企管顾问公司(BCG)发布的研究报告《美国制造归来》(Made in the USA, Again)指出,中美生产成本差距缩小,美资企业已从大陆撤离回流到美国,中国制造(Made In China)已变身成为美国制造(Made In America)。

中国市场已成美资眼中“鸡肋”

这里需要先对中国商务部公布的外商投资增加的数据作一解析。北京一直宣称外资还在持续增加,2011年1-9月,全国新批设立外商投资企业20407家,同比增长6.24%;合同外资金额1778.67亿美元,同比增长16.85%;实际使用外资金额866.79亿美元,同比增长16.6%。如果仅看这些数据定会产生误解,即中国还被世界跨国公司视为投资宝域。但实际情况并非如此,因为上述数据包括来自维尔京、开曼群岛、萨摩亚、毛里求斯和巴巴多斯等自由港的对华投资。维尔京、开曼群岛、萨摩亚等地正好是中国资本外逃的中转站和洗钱天堂。来自这些地方的所谓“新增对华投资”,其实只不过是中国人和中国公司在这些洗钱天堂漂白的资本回流。

早在四、五年前,美欧众多跨国公司就已经公开表露对中国投资环境恶化的严重不满。中国美国商会与中国欧盟商会连续三年发布的调查报告,都表示欧美商界对中国的保护性政策越发感到担心,认为它们在华工作的环境在未来几年将会更加恶化。外资的不满集中在三点:一是知识产权得不到保护,新规定迫使外资企业将业务和技术诀窍转让给中资公司,以换取市场准入。二是政府采购规定有失公平,在华经营的外资公司“期望在公开招标中获得平等对待”。三是中国对外资企业并购采取的限制。要成立合资企业,外资方面必须寻找中国公司作为合作伙伴,双方的股权分配只能是一半对一半。在中国知识产权保护力度严重不足,这给外资企业造成了巨大的损失。

美国政府与欧盟领导层与中国就投资环境进行多轮磋商,但未能有所改变。加之中国大陆近两年面临员工薪资上涨,土地成本增加,以及人民币不断升值等因素,造成整体生产成本大增。美资企业盘算成本之后,认为大陆廉价劳动力的优势已不复存在,于是将企业回迁美国。BCG在《美国制造归来》中预测,到2020年将有15%针对北美市场的美国企业从中国回流到美国。前不久,福特汽车公司宣布把1.2万个工作机会迁回美国,并将在美国投资160亿美元,包括62亿美元用于购买和升级在美工厂的配备。BGG高级合夥人希尔金(Harold L. Sirkin)指出,未来五年在美国一些地区制造的商品,生产成本将只比大陆沿海城市略高5%至10%。成本缩小的同时,美国的生产效率更超过大陆。

高盛从急欲联姻到绝袂离婚

撤资的不止产业界,还有金融业。最近几个月,美国银行(Bank of America)和高盛先后结束与中资银行的联姻。在它们采取行动之前,美银(Bank of America)和美林(Merrill Lynch)将其拥有的中国建设银行的10%的股份出售了大约一半。在所有美资的撤资当中,高盛的退出具有标志性意义。就我所知,高盛曾绞尽脑汁希望在中国扎根,为此充当了中国金融业最踊跃的战略投资者。为了获得北京青睐,高盛曾投入巨额公关费用进行巧妙的公关。这些公关手段当中包括采用北京最喜欢的手段:即帮助中国在国际社会宣传。那本罔顾事实、竭尽吹捧之能事的《北京共识》(2005年),就是美国高盛公司的资深顾问乔舒亚•库珀•雷默 (Joshua Cooper Ramo)执笔写成。这个报告不仅将中国这种罔顾社会公正与人权、严重透支生态环境的经济模式,说成“以平等与高质量的发展为其特点”,是“寻求公正与高质增长的发展途径”的发展模式;还说“北京共识”包含的许多“非经济理念”(即“专制极权政治+市场经济”的政治理念与价值观)不仅值得发展中国家仿效,还将在全球范围内取代“华盛顿共识”。这种有点无耻但很有效的“公关”方式其它外资银行亦曾广泛采用,2004年在英文世界里发行并获得关注的《他改变了中国:江泽民传》,作者就是一句中国话都不会说的花旗(银行)集团的执行董事库恩。这位既非传记作家,也非记者,更不是中国问题专家的金融界从业者,亲自捉笔写就这本传记,其公关意义自不待言。

花费如此投入公关而进入的市场居然被舍弃,只有傻瓜才会将这一信息解读成是出自于自身的困难。只能说,这些银行已经看到一点:中国市场的前景晦暗,该是全身而退之时了。

跨国公司:北京游说美国的重要盟友

这些对美国政界有着举足轻重影响的跨国公司退出中国,意味着联系中美政治经济关系的重要纽带已经松动。以往的岁月里,由于在华投资的广泛利益,这些跨国公司一直力主中美友好,是美国政商两界“拥抱熊猫派”的主要社会基础。

多年来,跨国公司为了实现和保障在华投资利润,对国会进行了大量游说。它们在华盛顿有专门的游说人员,还结成了同盟。在中国加入世贸组织之前,他们热衷于呼吁美国政府无条件延长对华最惠国待遇。面对中国恶劣的人权状态与专制政治,他们游说国会的主要理由是,“中国正行进在接近西方民主的改良之路上”、“经济发展将会促进中国的政治改革”、“网路普及将给中国带来新闻自由”等等。这些游说活动中有几项让中国政府受益匪浅。例如,2000 年美国国会对中国最惠国待遇表决之前,波音等美国数百家跨国公司结成团体,发动了声势浩大的游说行动。参与人员包括各公司的政府关系专家、行业联合会的游说机构以及共同雇佣的专门游说公司。在近一年时间里,他们举办大量讲座和会谈,向国会灌输开放对华贸易将会给美国企业带来的巨大商机的理念,最终获得成功。这次集体游说总共花费1.12亿美元--此前,美国商界集体行动的最高纪录是建立北美自由贸易区的游说,总额也不过3,000万美元。2007年美国出台《对华出口和再出口管制政策的修改和澄清及新的授权合格最终用户制度》,增加了47项出口管制产品,但最后促使美国减少管制产品的不是中国政府的抗议,而是美国的跨国公司波音、联合技术等企业的游说。

美国跨国公司对中美友好所做的贡献,中国政府基本不会公开承认。但北京心知肚明,尽管北京曾聘请20多家专业公关公司为其在美国游说,其效果却远不如这些在美国本土政界拥有盘根错节关系网络的跨国公司。当美国金融产业界与中国的紧密联系松动之后,中国与美国在地缘政治上的矛盾、以及中国与国际体系、中共价值观与普世价值的内在冲突等各种因经贸利益而被强行压制下去的摩擦性因素就会日益突显。

无疑,中美关系面临新变局。从目前的状况来看,美国对此似乎已有心理准备,中国方面明显准备不足。

U.S. capital reflux, the crucial bond between China and the United States began to loosen—a retrospective of changes in Sino-American relations (two)
By He Qinglian on November 29, 2011
(translated by kRiZcPEc)

As said in the previous article, one of the main reasons the Sino-American relations has changed was that one American multinational giant after another withdrew from the Chinese market. China only acknowledged that there had been instances of U.S. businesses withdrawal, but denied that it had become a trend. In its research report, Made in the USA, Again, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) pointed out that “the [gap of production costs] with China shrinks”, U.S. enterprises had left China and moved back to America. What were once made in China are now made in America. (Source in Chinese)

The Chinese market has become uneasy for American Businesses
Here it is necessary to first analyze the data released the Chinese Ministry of Commerce that reflected an increase in foreign investment. Beijing has claimed all along that foreign investment is still on the increase. From January to September 2011, 20,407 new foreign enterprises had been approved to launch, an increase of 6.24% year on year; and contracted foreign investment amounted to $177.867 billion, an increase of 16.85% year on year. Looking at these data alone and it would be inevitable to misunderstand that multinationals still deem China as the place to invest in. This is not true. The data cited above included investment from free ports like the Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Samoa, Barbados, and Mauritius. These places happen to be money laundering havens and transit points for China’s capital that has fled the country. The so-called new investments in China from these places were in fact returning capitals of Chinese individuals and Chinese companies that had been bleached in money laundering havens.

As early as four or five years ago, many multinationals from Europe and the United States openly expressed their dissatisfaction with the deterioration in China’s investing environment. For three consecutive years the American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China and the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China published studies that reflected businesses from the U.S. and the E.U. had been increasingly worried about China’s protection policy, thinking that their work environment in China would worsen even more.

Foreign companies are dissatisfied in three areas.

First, lack of protection of intellectual property: New regulations forced these companies to transfer their business and technologies to Chinese companies to gain market access. Protection of intellectual property was seriously inadequate, causing massive losses in foreign enterprises.

Second, unfair government provisions on acquisition: Foreign companies in China “wished to get equal treatment in open tender.”

Third, merger restrictions imposed upon foreign firms: To set up joint ventures, foreign companies were required to partner with Chinese companies, and the share holding ratio between both sides could only be fifty-fifty.

U.S. government and E.U. leaders held rounds of talk with the Chinese authorities on investment environment, but no change had been resulted. On top of this, China saw in the last two years a rise in workers’ wages, land cost and continuous appreciation of RMB among other factors that sharply increased the overall production costs.

After costs calculation, U.S. enterprises thought that the advantage of cheap labor in mainland China has ceased to exist, and so they moved back to the United States. In its report Made in the USA, Again, the BCG predicted that by 2020, 15% of U.S. corporations targeting North American market would move back to the United States from China.

Not long ago, Ford Motor Company announced that 12,000 jobs are to be moved back to the United States, where it will invest $16 billion, including $62 billion for purchase and plant equipments upgrade.

BCG senior partner Harold L. Sirkin pointed out that in the next five years the production cost of goods made in certain areas in the United States would only be 5 to 10% higher than coastal cities in China. As the costs reduced, the United States has a productive efficiency edge over China.

U-turn of Goldman Sachs’ attitude toward China

It was not just the industries that withdrew, but the financial sector as well. In recent months, the Bank of America and Goldman Sachs ended their partnership with Chinese banks. Before they took action, the Bank of America and Merrill Lynch sold about half of their 10% share holdings in China Construction Bank.

Of all the American corporations withdrawn from China, Goldman Sachs’ exit had a symbolic significance. From what I knew, Goldman Sachs had at one point racked it brain in the attempt to take root in China. To achieve this, the company became the most active strategic investor in China’s financial sector. And to get Beijing favor, Goldman Sachs had spent big money to produce clever Public Relations.

These PR techniques included one that Beijing liked best: helped China with its publicity in international community. Published in 2005, written by Joshua Cooper Ramo, senior consultant of Goldman Sachs, Beijing Consensus was a book that disregarded facts, and went as far in flattery as possible.

That book not only portrayed China’s economic model—one that disregards social justice, human rights and seriously overdrafts ecological environment—as one with the characteristics of equal and quality development, a development model that seeks fairness and high standard growth; it also said that many of the non-economics ideals the Beijing consensus comprises are not only what developing countries should learn from, but will also replace the “Washington consensus” globally.

This somewhat shameless but highly effective way of pro-China PR had widely been used by other foreign banks. In 2004 [for example], the book the Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin was published in the English world and generated much attention. Its author, Robert Lawrence Kuhn, Executive Director of Citigroup (bank), is a person who doesn’t speak Chinese at all. This financial practitioner who is neither a biography writer nor a journalist, even less so a specialist on China’s problems would personally put pen to paper and wrote up this biography, the book’s significance in pro-Beijing PR went without saying.

The market that Citigroup spent such big money and effort on pro-Beijing PR to get access to was abandoned by the corporation, only a fool would think this decision was due to the conglomerate’s own problem. I could only say that these banks have already realized one thing: China market has a grim outlook, and from which it’s time to withdraw.

Multinationals: Key allies of China lobby

The withdrawal of multinationals with decisive influence on U.S. political circle means that the crucial link that binds the political and economic relationship between China and the United States has begun to loosen. In the past, given the wide-ranging investment interests in China, these corporations advocated all along for Sino-American friendship and were the main social base of the Panda huggers in the U.S. political and business circles.

For years, multinationals carried out much lobbying at Congress so as to realize and protect their investment interests in China. These corporations had in Washington lobbyists serving specifically this purpose and they formed an alliance. Before China joined the WTO, they keenly called on the U.S. government to unconditionally extend the most-favored-nation trading (MFN; Permanent Normal Trade Relations, PNTR after 1998) status to China. As for the issues of China’s dreadful human rights conditions and its autocratic rule, the main reasons with which they lobbied Congress were, “China is on the path of improvement and is moving closer to Western democracy”, “economic development would be conducive to China’s political reform”, “the spread of the Internet would bring press freedom to China” and so on.

Some of these lobbying efforts benefited China significantly. For example, before the U.S. Congress voted on China’s PNTR status in 2000, hundreds of Multinationals like Boeing formed a group and launched a massive lobby campaign. Participants of the campaign included government relations experts from these companies, industry lobby groups and companies specialized in lobbying that these corporations jointly hired. For almost a year, they held huge number of seminars and talks, instilling in Congress the idea that open trade to China would bring huge business opportunity to American enterprises, and they eventually made it. This collective lobbying cost in total $ 112 million. Before this, the highest spending record of collective action from the US business sector was the creation of the North America Free Trade Zone, which totaled in no more than $ 30 million.

In 2007 the United States promulgated “the People’s Republic of China exports and re-export control policy changes and clarifications and a new Authorization Validated End-User system “, 47 export control products were added. But in the end what prompted the U.S. to reduce the number of controlled products was not the protest from the Chinese government, but rather the lobbying from U.S. multinationals like Boeing, United Technologies and other enterprises.

The Chinese government basically would not openly acknowledge the contributions U.S. multinationals had made to bolster Sino-American friendship. Yet Beijing knew very well that even though it had hired more than twenty professional PR firms to lobby for it in the United States, the effort was far less fruitful than these Multinationals which had deep-rooted connections with local politicians.

After the close tie between the U.S. financial and industrial sectors and China has loosened, the geopolitical conflicts between China and the United States, the inherent conflicts between China and the international system, and clashes between universal values and those of the CCP—the friction factors that had been forcibly suppressed by reason of economic interests will become increasingly evident.

Undoubtedly, the Sino-American relations are facing new changes. Judging from the current situation, the United States seems to have been psychologically ready, while China is clearly ill-prepared for it.
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