Friday, 16 August 2013

End of Li Ka-Shing Era in Hong Kong and Lessons for Singapore

Li Ka-Shing is the richest Chinese in the world and of course in Hong Kong, his business is almost everywhere ranging from logistic, supermarkets, energy, to property development.  Interestingly, a recent article from the influential 21st Century Business Herald#1 in China predicted that his monopoly or golden era in Hong Kong is over.

Li’s position in Hong Kong in many ways is even more important than Temasek Holdings in Singapore.  Why a mighty ‘Superman’ has to end his golden era in Hong Kong, 17 years after the return of HK? The reason is simply.  According to the article, Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are marching into Hong Kong.  In the eyes of Chinese political leaders, the most they can classify Li is just a successful businessman and for political reasons, the importance and existence of SOEs in Hong Kong are more than doing businesses and making money alone.

So, Li now moves his investment to Europe.

[Li Ka-Shing goes shopping in Europe as Hong Kong sales slump] #2

Why does he want to move to Europe when Li has so good connection in China? And Euro crisis and European recession are still not over yet. Perhaps, he sees the value in Europe or the undervalued assets in Europe as The Malay Mail above had suggested.

The 21 Century Business Herald gives another reason. Li predicts his future business development in Hong Kong is limited and his monopoly positions in many business sectors are ending.  However, the decisive reason is he sees his investment in Europe has a stable and predictable future with certainty. In another word, he wants to invest in a business environment that has legal protection.

We have to understand that media in China is controlled. Why does a Chinese publication make such a prediction? Why does Li think there are less legal protections in Hong Kong in future? And the 21st Century even says Li has made a right business decision and strategic move.

What lessons for Singapore?

It is very complicated.

At least, we are lucky Singapore is an independent sovereign country and Singaporeans can decide our future in the present moment.  Legal protection is always here and increasingly, the ruling party has to respect the rights of citizens.

But will the Hong Kong situation happen to us? When our population increases to 7 million, the game play will be very different. We have seen more and more SOEs coming to Singapore as well as many Indian companies too.  In theory, we can do a yin-yang balance to offset all the inflows of Western, Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Korean investments and businesses. Just like what we did in the past 50 years.

But with the increasing mistrust between the PAP and Singaporeans, what will be the future look like? Will the PAP be another Chief Executive of Hong Kong, having limited say in the running of Singapore?  Will Temasek Holdings like another Li Ka-Shing, having less control over Singapore economy? Perhaps, a less monopoly Temasek in Singapore is a good thing to all.  We don’t know.

The Wall Street Journal Chinese edition has an interesting article on political promise in China#3.

This is a book review by a constitutional law professor from Peking University. He talked about several ‘miss’ opportunities for a constitutional (and democratic) China. He said, ‘we entrust everything to the people who rule us and believe the delivery of political promise made by the rulers. Unfortunately, political promise cannot be trusted (given the situations in China).’

The review also touched on the mindset change and political demand of the Chinese:  

[When you realize you have the right to demand something, you are no more a slave. However, the Master has not adjusted to this change and he still treat you like before.  The logic of the Master is simple if you have no power to challenge me, you better wait.  Not to forget, I still hold the national machineries! And our pioneers had fought hard to win the war with your support.]#4    

Singapore’s situation today is certainly better than that of today’s China. Yes. The PAP won the elections in the 1960s with the people’s support. They now control the machineries of the country. But when we awake and demand for more changes, they hesitate and refuse to adjust.  

Under Singapore Constitutions, general elections have to be held regularly, this makes us very differently from China and Hong Kong.  We decide the political stability and legal protection in Singapore.  We still have a final say at least in the coming election.  We should appreciate it and vote wisely.






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