Lai See

Hong Kong blinkers skew Pearl delta outlook, says Michael Enright

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 May, 2013, 4:13am

Good to see that Michael Enright hasn't lost his competitive edge and remains one of the more interesting thinkers on China.

Speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce's annual conference on China, the professor observed that the Pearl River Delta region is under-reported and misreported. It's under-reported because news organisations have bureaus in Shanghai and Beijing and try to cover southern China from Hong Kong. It's misreported because the information is filtered through the eyes of Hong Kong investors, who were among the first manufacturers to move into the region but concentrated on light industries. "They are the ones that are being affected by higher costs and more domestic competition and by difficult international markets."

However, the reality, says Enright, is that the region is moving up the value chain into industries such as cars, pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals. Hong Kong investors aren't participating in these industries. "We get a jaundiced view of what's happening in the PRD because it is filtered through Hong Kong investors who aren't reaping the benefits." It is, he says, nonsense "to talk about the decline of the PRD".


Liu Mingkang's artful dodge

Amcham's China conference was graced by the presence of a number of luminaries, one of whom was Liu Mingkang, the former chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission and now rejoicing in the title of Distinguished Research Fellow & Honorary Professor, the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

He was sitting on the panel entitled 2020 - Hong Kong's "Best Before" Date? This relates to the date that came out of the mainland some years ago that by 2020 Shanghai would be the foremost financial centre in all China. But you got the impression that Liu wasn't entirely comfortable with the topic, saying at one point that "Hong Kong wasn't his turf", preferring to speak about the mainland's needs and the potential role for Hong Kong to supply solutions.

But when the panel was asked directly how Hong Kong should deal with the challenges that lay ahead, he ducked the question, answering epigrammatically, "life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful". Then came "time and tide wait for no man", and finally, "it's often a fine line between much too much and not enough", leaving us amused but none the wiser.


Please refrain, AmCham

While we are always happy to be invited to conferences such as AmCham's discussed above, Lai See takes the view that it isn't good practice to hand the press a list of "refrains". AmCham should know better. A note handed to visiting press included "Please stay within the designated press area; Please refrain moving outside the press area and walking around the venue [The Four Seasons hotel]; Please refrain from asking questions during the event; Please refrain from conducting an interview while session is in progress; Please refrain from consuming the food and beverages; Please refrain from bringing in outside food and drinks in consideration of the relevant venue restrictions; Please respect the facilities of the venue".

A lot of this is common sense and mildly offensive. Added to which was the close attention of the person looking after the press, buzzing around to make sure we stand in the right place in between sessions and sit in the right place during the sessions. There's no need to treat us like errant kids.


Saying it with flowers

Tomorrow is Mothers Day in Hong Kong, which unusually follows the US rather than Britain in this. FedEx has sought to associate itself with Mothers Day by issuing a press release reminding us that FedEx transports a considerable number of flowers for the occasion, along with some factoids on the flower trade.

Global cut flower exports, according to the International Trade Centre, is a US$40 billion to US$60 billion industry. Most people send carnations on Mothers Day, apparently, and most carnations come from Colombia. The world's largest flower auction, FloraHolland reported 3 per cent growth last year, with its largest export growth going to Russia. Orchids from Thailand and Singapore are now a global commodity, FedEx tells us.