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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion -> 
Let Li manage his own business
    2015-09-28  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Wu Guangqiang

    jw368@163.com

    CHINESE social media has lately been abuzz with an article titled “Don’t let Li Ka-shing take flight.”

    The article was written by Luo Tianhao, an independent researcher in Beijing. In his article, Luo criticized Li’s recent withdrawal of his funds from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong and even went further by ranting, “Stop Li Ka-shing from running away!”

    It’s true that Li, Hong Kong’s most powerful business magnate and the one-time richest person in Asia, is dumping billions of dollars in Chinese holdings and transferring his assets to other parts of the world, particularly Europe.

    In June 2014, he sold the Pacific Department Store in Beijing for US$928 million. He is now reportedly mulling selling 20 billion yuan (US$3.14 billion) worth of properties in Shanghai.

    Once the deal concludes, Li will no longer have any major property investments on the Chinese mainland.

    According to Bloomberg’s estimates, Li’s offloading of his assets on the Chinese mainland in recent years, including supermarkets, ports and energy, will reach 100 billion yuan by the end of this year.

    Meanwhile, the 86-year-old, dubbed “Superman,” is busy buying assets in Europe, the U.K. in particular. Earlier this year, Li announced that he was planning on buying U.K. phone giant O2 for as much as US$15.4 billion. Shortly before the O2 move, Li’s firm Cheung Kong announced it would buy Britain’s Eversholt Rail Group, which owns 28 percent of the nation’s passenger trains, for US$3.8 billion.

    Li’s investments in the U.K. have surpassed 30 billion pounds (US$45.70 billion), and his commercial tentacles have spread to a wide range of areas: telecommunications, ports, railways and utilities. Britain’s Daily Mail exclaimed, “The Asian billionaire is buying up the British Empire.”

    Some analysts say that his moves are a reaction to the China slowdown as well as political turmoil in Hong Kong.

    And after all, as a shrewd businessperson, Li must have discovered it was a good time to acquire assets in Europe, as he did several decades ago on the mainland.

    It’s also logical that Li is reducing investment in the saturated property and infrastructure sectors. Plus he is not good at high-tech or Internet sectors. Therefore, his investment strategy adjustment is understandable.

    But Luo doesn’t think this way. He believes that Li has a moral obligation to stay on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong because he owes his commercial success and accumulation of wealth largely to China’s preferential policies toward Hong Kong and Taiwan capitalists. In other words, his success was not purely of a commercial nature, so the withdrawal from China is untenable on the business ground.

    

    By tracing the history of Li’s business empire, Luo expounded on how Li and other Hong Kong business tycoons gradually grew from small to big and eventually achieved a monopoly position in Hong Kong’s economy, especially in the property sector, with the all-out support from the Central Government, particularly after the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China.

    It was the “one country, two systems” policy that laid the foundation for Li and his peers’ success, concluded Luo.

    Therefore, Luo thinks that Li must be condemned for pulling out of China when the country is now facing economic challenges. To Luo, it is ungrateful and selfish.

    In addition, Luo argued, Li was partially responsible for Hong Kong’s economic stagnation and surging popular discontent because Li’s monopoly of Hong Kong’s housing market fueled the soaring prices, leaving citizens unable to afford housing and the property-dominant economic structure partially suffocated Hong Kong’s economic growth. Consequently, Li has a responsibility to do something to help Hong Kong regain vitality.

    Luo’s argument makes some sense but is a little overreaching. Li represents an old generation of businesspeople and has a descending influence on China’s economy, so his departure will have little impact. Besides, he still holds 13.8 million square meters in land reserves on the mainland, which, as he affirms, shows his confidence in China.

    (The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)

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