2010年3月17日 星期三

Business Sours On China/ 中国发生了近九万起'群体事件' (2009)

Business Sours On China

Foreign businesses say their relationship with China is starting to sour, as tougher government policies and intensifying domestic competition combine to make one of the world's most important markets less friendly to multinationals.

Interviews with executives, lawyers, and consultants with long experience in China point to developments they say are making it much harder for many foreign companies to succeed. They say the changes suggest Beijing is reassessing China's long-standing emphasis on opening its economy to foreign business -- epitomized by the changes it made to join the World Trade Organization in 2001 -- and tilting toward promoting dominant state companies.

In the latest broadside against foreigners, authorities in a wealthy province near Shanghai Tuesday assailed the quality of luxury clothing brands from the West, including Hermes, Tommy Hilfiger and Versace.

Next week, the American Chamber of Commerce in China is coming out with a new survey of its members that is expected to document a downturn in sentiment.

Technology executives say they are highly concerned about government procurement rules issued late last year that would favor local suppliers who have 'indigenous innovation.' The rules, if implemented, could limit foreign access to tens of billions of dollars in contracts for computers, telecommunications gear, office equipment and other goods.

Patent rules imposed Feb. 1 threaten to increase costs in China for foreign innovators in industries such as pharmaceuticals, and let authorities force foreign drug companies to license production to local companies at state-set prices.

Executives in several industries say the liberalization spurred by China's WTO entry is stalling. Foreign makers of wind turbines and solar panels say they are being shut out of big renewable-energy projects. Regulatory barriers effectively cap participation in insurance: Foreign companies had just 4.7% of China's life-insurance market as of June, and 1% of its property and casualty market, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

'I am pro-China and I am in favor of doing business in China, but I have some serious concerns about what has been happening in the last year,' says Fraser Mendel, an attorney with U.S. law firm Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.

Chinese officials dismiss complaints that the environment for foreigners has worsened, but there are signs top leaders are noting their concerns. Commerce Minister Chen Deming called top China executives from more than 20 multinationals to a meeting this month billed as 'a chance to listen and hear issues of concern,' said one participant. Mr. Chen pledged China would 'resolutely continue' to open its markets, but he also criticized protectionism in the West.

On Sunday, Premier Wen Jiabao vowed China will 'unswervingly implement its opening-up policy.' He conceded that his 'contacts with foreign investors haven't been close enough,' and pledged to increase interaction.

Many foreign executives say they see an upsurge in economic nationalism, accelerated by China's world-beating performance during the recession and a new disdain for Western economic management.

'The economic crisis and downturn emboldened those who had been pushing back' against efforts to liberalize markets, says Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA, a Beijing-based consulting company.

Signs of nationalism are evident in the grooming of state-owned companies to dominate their industries as 'national champions,' often at the expense of private Chinese companies as well as foreign firms. From airlines to coal mining to dairy products, government policies are expanding the state's role.

A year ago, in a move foreign critics called protectionist, Chinese regulators rejected a bid by Coca-Cola Co. for China Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd., saying it could crowd out smaller companies and raise consumer prices. The two combined held just a fifth of China's juice market.

In July, four executives of Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto were detained, initially accused of stealing 'state secrets,' amid tense negotiations between global miners and China's steel industry over iron ore prices. Rio Tinto denies wrongdoing by the men, who await trial on reduced charges of bribery and theft of commercial secrets.

Google Inc.'s woes highlight the angst. The search company, long troubled by Chinese censorship rules, threatened Jan. 12 to depart China after it said a Chinese hacking attack penetrated its computer network. Related attacks hit dozens of other multinationals. Google is expected soon to close its Chinese site, Google.cn., leaving local companies dominating an Internet market of 400 million users.

'The Google issue has had a crystallizing effect,' says Lester Ross, managing partner in Beijing for U.S. law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. 'It raised the consciousness of government and of the boardrooms and other stakeholders' about the difficulties of doing business in China, he says.
Foreign investors have long complained of China's haphazard legal system and regulation. These were mere annoyances when China was an emerging market. Today, the huge Chinese market is fundamental to the health of large Western multinationals. Lose here, say Western executives, and multinationals are weakened globally.

The new patent rules providing for what is called compulsory licensing aren't unique to China. But China's pharmaceuticals industry is dominated by state-owned firms, and Western lawyers worry the rules will favor them. One provision requires companies to pay Chinese employees at least 2% of profit derived from their inventions in China unless the employees explicitly waive that right.
The law 'imposes significant new requirements on multinationals operating in China,' says Mr. Mendel, the attorney. 'You no longer have absolute control over what comes out of your R&D facility.'

Executives interviewed for this article declined to comment publicly. In December, a group of 34 business organizations from North America, Europe and Asia sent a letter to three Chinese government ministers blasting the indigenous-innovation preferences for procurement as 'discriminatory' against foreigners.

Beijing denies the rules are discriminatory, yet governments are taking note. 'Recent events . . . have reminded us of the continued challenges faced by foreign and U.S. companies operating in China,' U.S. Commerce Sec. Gary Locke said in a January speech. 'China needs to continue making strides to be more transparent, predictable and committed to the rule of law.'

Some are more upbeat. A U.S.-China Business Council poll of members last year showed 93% were 'optimistic' or 'somewhat optimistic' about their future in China over five years. Robert Poole, head of the council in China, says it 'is really concerned about some of these policies,' but 'the broad themes of continued openness and reform continue to be there.'

Some sectors haven't been much hindered. Car makers like Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co. benefited hugely from China's booming market last year. But state-run media have reported government plans to increase domestic brands' share to over 50% of passenger vehicles by 2015, from 44% last year.

For many multinationals in China, today's profits follow years of investment, much of it encouraged by government policies designed to lure capital. Now, at the point when their dream of access to a giant market is becoming reality, China is so prosperous that it has less need for foreign funds. Foreign investment has grown much slower than the rest of China's economy, amounting to 1.8% of gross domestic product in 2009, down from a peak of 6% in 1994.

Beijing has long harbored suspicions the West wants to hobble its economic rise. Analysts say lately, such insecurities have strengthened the hand of leaders who want to limit foreign presence in the economy. There are backers of openness, says Mr. Ross of WilmerHale, but 'there are louder voices pushing China to be more protectionist and to be more nationalist.'

Andrew Browne / Jason Dean


有 長期在華經驗的管理人員、律師和咨詢師在接受採訪時都將上述現象的原因歸於一些發展變化﹐他們認為這些情況令許多外國公司在中國更難取得成功。他們說﹐這 些變化表明中國政府正在重新評估其長期強調對外國企業開放經濟的做法﹐並逐漸傾向於助長知名的國內公司。中國的對外開放集中體現在2001年為了加入世貿 組織(WTO)而推行的一些變化。

AFP/Getty Images
在最新一起針對外國企業的抨擊行動中﹐浙江省有關部門週二把批評的矛頭指向眾多西方大牌服裝的質量﹐其中包括愛馬仕(Hermes)、湯米•希爾費格(Tommy Hilfiger)和范思哲(Versace)。

下週﹐中國美國商會(American Chamber of Commerce in China)將公佈對會員進行的一項新的調查﹐預計報告將為市場情緒的低迷提供證明。



數 個行業的企業高管都說﹐中國入世帶來的開放自由正在停滯下來。外國風力渦輪機和太陽能板生產商說﹐他們被關在大型可再生能源項目的大門外。據普華永道 (PricewaterhouseCoopers)的數據﹐監管壁壘實際上限制了外國企業參與保險業:截至去年6月份﹐外國企業在中國人壽保險市場只佔有 4.7%的份額﹐在財產保險市場上只佔有1%。

美國律師事務所Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt律師孟德爾(Fraser Mendel)說﹐我支持中國﹐我喜歡在中國做生意﹐不過我對過去一年發生的事感到非常擔憂。




位於北京的咨詢公司BDA的董事長鄧肯(Duncan Clark)說﹐經濟危機和低迷讓那些一直反對開放市場的人膽子變大了。


一年前﹐在外國批評人士稱之為保護主義的舉措中﹐中國監管機構拒絕了可口可樂(Coca-Cola Co.)對中國匯源果汁集團有限公司的收購提議﹐說這可能會把較小的企業擠出市場﹐導致消費價格上漲。這兩家公司加在一起只佔中國果汁市場的五分之一。

去年7月﹐英-澳礦業巨頭力拓(Rio Tinto)的四名管理人士被拘留﹐他們先被指控竊取了“國家機密”﹐此前全球礦業巨頭和中國鋼鐵行業就鐵礦石價格展開了密集談判。力拓否認這幾個人有不當行為﹐他們目前正在等待審判﹐但所受的指控已經降格為行賄和竊取商業機密。

谷 歌(Google Inc.)的苦惱彰顯了外國在華投資企業的焦慮。這家網絡搜索公司一直被中國互聯網審查方面的法規所困擾﹐它今年1月12日威脅說要撤離中國﹐此前該公司 稱由中國人發起的黑客襲擊行動滲透進了該公司的電腦網絡。還有幾十家跨國公司受到了此次黑客行動的襲擊。谷歌預計很快會關閉其中國網站 Google.cn﹐任由中國本地企業主導中國有四億網民的互聯網市場。

美國威凱平和而德律師事務所(Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr)駐北京的執行合伙人羅斯(Lester Ross)說﹐谷歌事件已經產生了日益明確的影響。他說﹐此事使政府、企業董事會以及其他利益相關者群體意識到在中國做生意的困難。外國投資者一直在抱怨 中國不規范的法律體系和監管環境。當中國還是一個新興市場時﹐這些僅僅是可厭之事。而今天﹐巨大的中國市場對西方大型跨國企業的健康發展已經起著重要作 用。西方企業的管理人士說﹐如果跨國公司在中國市場失利﹐它們的全球地位將受到削弱。

新專利法規所規定的所謂強制認證並非中國所獨有。但 中國的製藥行業為國有企業所主導﹐西方律師擔心相關法規會對這些企業有利。其中一項條款規定﹐企業需將其在華創造發明所獲利潤的至少2%支付給其中國雇員 ﹐除非這些雇員明確放棄這些權利。孟德爾律師說﹐這一法律對在華運營的跨國公司施加了眾多新規定。他說﹐你不再對你研發設施中出來的東西有絕對控制權。


中國政府雖然否認相關法規是歧視性的﹐但已在正視這一問題。美國商務部長駱家輝(Gary Locke)今年1月在一次演講中說﹐最近的事態提醒我們﹐外國和美國公司在華開展業務依然面臨著挑戰。他說﹐中國在增加透明度、提高可預見性和致力於法治方面需要繼續邁出大步。

有 些人則更為樂觀。美中貿易全國委員會(U.S.-China Business Council)去年對其會員進行的一項調查顯示﹐93%的受訪者對其未來五年的在華前景持“樂觀”或“某種程度的樂觀”態度。該委員會中國負責人普爾 (Robert Poole)說﹐中國的某些政策確實令人擔心﹐但繼續改革開放依然是中國的普遍主題。

在中國的一些領域外資企業並未受到 多大妨礙。大眾汽車(Volkswagen AG)和通用汽車(General Motors Co.)等汽車生產商去年從中國汽車市場的快速增長中獲益匪淺。但國有媒體報導﹐中國政府計劃將本土品牌汽車在中國轎車市場的佔有率從去年的44%提高到 2015年時的50%以上。

對許多在華跨國企業來說﹐今天的利潤是多年投資的結果﹐而這些投資許多都是在政府吸引外資政策的鼓勵下進行 的。現如今﹐就在這些企業進入一個巨大市場的夢想正在變為現實之際﹐中國卻已繁榮到了不再需要那麼多外資的程度。外資企業的投資增長速度要比中國其他類型 企業的投資增速慢得多﹐2009年外商投資額只相當於中國國內生產總值的1.8%﹐而1994年最高峰時這一比例為6%。


Andrew Browne / Jason Dean

德语媒体 | 2010.03.17



《法兰克福汇报》在文章中写道:"例如,与会议平行,中国新闻界开展了一场房价上涨问题的讨论。修订选举法,使农村居民今后在人大得到更充 分体现,也受到普遍关注。但是,在中国,公众讨论受到严格限制。3月1日,十多家报纸发表评论,要求取消所谓的户口制度。这次集合行动显然事先没有与政府 谈妥,撰稿人和编辑张宏被撤职。




"北京领导人控制、甚至压制早就应该进行的讨论,这只会有损中国,因为长期来看,不就各种想法争论,就无法控制温家宝也谈及的社会和经济问题。中国 社会科学院研究员于建嵘估计,去年一年中国发生了近九万起'群体事件',这是因群众对腐败、强占和当局为所欲为不满而爆发的抗争和动乱,他们往往与警察发 生冲突。

为宣泄这样的不满,中国领导人本来应该赶快找一个政治阀门。所以,一些批评人士认为,全国人大应该改造成为真正的议会。即使在这个严格控制的机构 中,今天仍然有一些代表发表不同看法。对那些不得人心的党的领导人,他们通过选票发出警告,也对某项法律草案提出异议。如此看来,人大可以变为公民更多参 与的合适地点,但道路还很漫长。