香港首富和中国官媒不久前各执一词的口水仗，极大地揭示了中共从中国经济崛起中获得的自信。 Mr Li shows CEOs how to deal
Last week’s he-said, they-said war of words between Hong Kong’s richest
man and Chinese state media says much about the confidence that the
Communist party has gained from the country’s economic rise.
In particular, Li Ka-shing’s run-in with the People’s Daily highlights a
shift over the past decade in the relationship between the party and
business interests — whether recently-minted private sector billionaires
or multinational companies. 李嘉诚(Li Ka-shing)与《人民日报》(People’s
In the mid-1990s, the then Chinese president Jiang Zemin had been
deferential in his dealings with Mr Li and the city’s other tycoons —
conscious that Hong Kong investors were at the forefront of a foreign
investment bonanza transforming China’s economy. Mr Jiang also knew the
tycoons’ support was essential to ensure the UK colony’s smooth
transition from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
At that time, it was inconceivable that commentators at
tightly-controlled state media organisation would be able to cast
aspersions on Mr Li’s patriotism, or accuse him of selling down his
investments on the mainland — accusations that last week prompted an
unusual public rebuttal from the usually low-key tycoon.
But, today, Mr Li and his Hong Kong peers are not the only big
businessmen that the party sees as subjects from whom deference is
expected, rather than as natural partners. Chairmen and chief executives
from the world’s largest companies, once routinely feted in Beijing,
have had their status similarly downgraded.
Besides Hong Kong investors, Mr Jiang’s other preoccupations in the
1990s included negotiations over China’s accession to the World Trade
Organisation. Scarcely a week passed without the chief executive of IBM
or some other behemoth dropping by for a chat with China’s president, in
an encounter often featured at the top of the evening news on China
In a recent memoir, Hank Paulson revealed the remarkable access that he
and other investment bank bosses had to top party leaders at that time.
There was a simple reason: Mr Jiang and his premier, Zhu Rongji, needed
the expertise of the then Goldman Sachs chief executive and his
colleagues to pull off their make-or-break restructuring of a bankrupt
banking system. 在最近出版的回忆录中，汉克?保尔森(Hank
Once Beijing had secured WTO membership, and finished restructuring its
banks, this remarkable era of open collaboration ended.
As a new leadership team shifted its focus to the development of China’s
rural hinterlands, high-profile meetings with Wall Street’s Masters of
the Universe and other corporate titans were no longer politically
correct. 随着新一代领导班子将重心转向发展中国内地农村地区，与华尔街(Wall Street)的那些“宇宙主宰者”(Masters of
It is a dynamic that continues under the “strongman” presidency of Xi
Jinping. In Mr Xi’s world, there is just one Master of the Universe.
Of the current seven members of the party’s most powerful body, the
Politburo Standing Committee, only Wang Qishan continues to tap western
business contacts on a regular basis, albeit discreetly. Mr Wang held
financial portfolios through the Jiang-Zhu era, which has given him an
international Rolodex that none of his communist colleagues possess.
But, friends of Wang aside, any foreign executives hoping for top-level
access to Mr Xi’s administration must make do with short, highly
scripted and content-free encounters — as evidenced by the president’s
roundtable with select chief executives during a state visit to the US
Yet still they lap it up. Mark Zuckerberg, who speaks broken Chinese and
revels in every opportunity to show it off, declared his brief handshake
and chat with Mr Xi “a meaningful personal milestone”.
Previously, the Facebook founder had tried to impress Lu Wei, head of
the Chinese government body that blocks his company’s website in China.
During a tour of Facebook’s offices for China’s censorship tsar last
year, a volume of Mr Xi’s speeches was clearly visible on Mr
Zuckerberg’s desk. 此前，这位Facebook的创始人还曾试图给鲁炜留下深刻印象——在中国屏蔽了Facebook的中国政府部门正是由后者负责的。去年，在参观Facebook办公室时，这位手握中国互联网审查大权的高官发现，一本收录习近平讲话的书籍赫然摆在扎克伯格的桌上。
Mr Zuckerberg could learn much from Mr Li when it comes to dealing with
China. Although the Chinese Communist party may not have particularly
liked the tycoon’s riposte last week, the one thing it understands and
respects more than anything else is strength.