Rebalancing act 再平衡动作

2020.9


Japan Inc is caught in the rift between America and China
中美失和,殃及日企

 

Rebalancing act 再平衡动作


WHEN ABE SHINZO became Japan’s prime minister for a second time in 2012, relations with China were on the skids. Tensions over disputed islands brought the two countries to the brink of conflict. Japanese car dealerships in China were set ablaze. Protests at a Panasonic factory turned violent.
安倍晋三在2012年第二次出任日本首相时,日中关系正在走下坡路。围绕争议岛屿的紧张局势升级,冲突一触即发。在中国,日本汽车经销店被纵火。松下一家工厂的抗议活动演变成了暴力事件。
After that, tempers cooled and relations warmed. Mr Abe had planned to host Xi Jinping for a state visit in Tokyo this spring, the first by a Chinese leader since 2008. Japan Inc, too, has been dining out on the bonhomie. Annual trade between China and Japan, the world’s second- and third-biggest economies, amounts to more than $300bn. Japanese firms accumulated over $130bn in assets in China. The flow of Japanese foreign direct investment there hit an all-time high of $14.4bn last year.
此后,怒火平息,关系回温。安倍原计划邀请习近平在今年春天前往东京,对日本进行国事访问。如果成行,将是中国领导人自2008年以来首次访日。日本企业也一直从这种友好的氛围中受益。中国和日本分别是全球第二大和第三大经济体,两国间的年贸易额超过3000亿美元。日本企业在中国的资产累计超过1300亿美元。去年,日本对中国的外国直接投资流入创历史新高,达到144亿美元。
According to Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, listed Japanese firms derived only 4% of revenues from China. But 26% of their profits were tied to China through suppliers or customers, more than depended on America, calculates Jesper Koll, a Tokyo-based economist. He reckons this profit share shot up to 63% in the second quarter, as the Chinese economy recovered faster than others from covid-19.
投资银行摩根士丹利的数据显示,日本上市公司只有4%的收入来自中国。但据在东京工作的经济学家杰斯珀•科尔(Jesper Koll)估算,它们有26%的利润通过供应商或客户与中国绑定,比对美国的依赖更深。他估计,由于中国经济从新冠疫情中的恢复速度比其他国家更快,这一利润份额在第二季度飙升至63%。
Now the mood seems once again to be souring. Covid-19 put paid to Mr Xi’s visit. His crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong and the economic cold war between Beijing and Washington have led senior Japanese officials to speak of risks rather than opportunities in China. Earlier this year Mr Abe’s government imposed new restrictions on foreign investment to protect certain industries, battered by covid-19, from Chinese bargain-hunters. The pandemic and the spectre of further American sanctions against Chinese companies such as Huawei, a telecoms-equipment giant, are making Japanese companies think about the stability of their supply chains, not just efficiency, says Ke Long of the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, a think-tank. Mr Abe’s sudden resignation on August 28th over ill health has added to the uncertainty.
现在,氛围似乎正再度转冷。习近平的出访因疫情搁浅。他对香港民主运动的镇压以及中美之间的经济冷战让日本的政府高官开始谈论在中国的风险而非机遇。今年早些时候,安倍政府出台了限制外国投资的新举措,以防止受疫情冲击的某些行业被中国买家趁虚而入。智库东京财团政策研究所(Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research)的柯隆表示,受疫情影响,以及担忧美国未来进一步对电信设备巨头华为之类的中国企业施加制裁,日本公司开始考虑自己供应链的稳定性,而不仅仅是效率。8月28日,安倍因健康问题突然辞职,加剧了局势的不确定。
Closer inspection reveals a more nuanced picture, however. One source close to the government says its aim is to focus on “several strategic choke-points” in China (such as medical supplies), while “keeping many areas open for commercial activity”. Not so much a great decoupling, then, as a quiet rebalancing.
然而,如果深入观察,就会发现情形更加微妙。一位与日本政府关系密切的消息人士表示,政府的目标是重点关注在中国的“几个战略咽喉点”(比如医疗用品),同时“继续保持很多领域对商贸活动开放”。由此看来,与其说这是一次重大脱钩,不如说是一次悄然进行的再平衡。
Mr Abe’s ¥244bn ($2.2bn) programme to induce Japanese firms to diversify their supply chains away from China is a case in point. In July 57 companies, including Iris Ohyama, a big plastics producer, and Sharp, a maker of electronics, received a combined ¥57bn to invest in production at home; others got help to build factories in South-East Asia. But of the 87 winning projects, 60 will be producing masks, disinfectants, drugs or other medical supplies.
一个例证是安倍2440亿日元(22亿美元)的企业资助项目,它引导日本企业将自身供应链多元化,扩散到中国以外。7月,包括大型塑料制品生产商爱丽思和电子产品制造商夏普在内的57家企业获得了总计570亿日元的资金,用于投资本土制造;其他企业获得帮助在东南亚建厂。但在87个获批项目中,有60个将生产口罩、消毒剂、药品或其他医疗用品。
Having business in China was not a precondition for the handouts; many companies, especially small and medium-sized ones that made up the bulk of applicants, had little or none. An executive at Novel Crystal Technology, a producer of materials for semiconductors, says his firm applied for the subsidy to reduce overconcentration—in the American market. The sums on offer are far too small to spur all-out decoupling, says Onishi Yasuo, a former official at the Japan External Trade Organisation, an independent government agency.
并不是只有在中国有业务的公司才有资格申请资助。很多公司,尤其是构成此次申请主体的中小企业,在中国几乎或完全没有业务。半导体材料制造商Novel Crystal Technology的一名高管称,自己公司申请补贴是为了减少过度集中在美国市场。独立的政府机构日本贸易振兴机构(Japan External Trade Organisation)前官员大西康雄表示,政府此次提供的资金太少,根本不足以推动全面脱钩。
Most Japanese firms with lots of exposure to China are in “wait and see” mode, says Mr Ke. America may have a new government soon. The scope and enforcement of American sanctions is vague. Even if tensions keep rising, Japan Inc is unlikely to behave as a monolith. Makers of niche products for export may decamp from China. Firms with a large Chinese business, such as carmakers, will be loth to leave.
大多数与中国有密切业务关联的日本公司还处于“观望”状态,柯隆说。美国可能很快会迎来新政府。美国制裁的范围和执行情况并不明确。即使紧张形势持续加剧,日本企业界也不太可能整齐划一地行事。制造利基出口商品的企业可能会从中国撤离。而像汽车制造商这样在中国有大量业务的公司会不愿意离开。
In the long run the risk for corporate Japan is less geopolitics than competition. China already transformed once, from a land of cheap labour into a booming consumer market; more than 70% of what Japanese companies’ affiliates produce in China is sold there. Now a second shift is under way, from consumer market to rival in sophisticated technology.
从长远来看,日本企业面临的风险更多来自竞争,而不是地缘政治。中国已经实现了一次转型——从廉价劳动力国家转变为繁荣的消费者市场;日本企业的中国子公司生产的产品超过70%在中国出售。现在,中国正在进行第二次转型——从消费者市场转变为尖端技术领域的竞争者。
The latest annual survey of 74 technology products and services by Nikkei, a Japanese business newspaper, found that last year Chinese companies overtook Japan in market share for liquid-crystal displays installed in smartphones and insulators for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. As an adviser to a large Japanese bank observes, that is what really makes Japanese firms nervous.
日本商业报纸《日本经济新闻》(Nikkei)对74项科技产品和服务的最新年度调查发现,去年中国企业在智能手机液晶显示屏和电动车锂电池绝缘材料上的市场份额超过了日本。正如一家日本大银行的顾问所说,这才是让日本企业真正感到紧张的事。