It’s hard to see where Hong Kong is headed, now that the government has decided to invoke emergency powers to ban the use of face masks at protests. There are at least two evident certainties: that protesters will be energized, leading to a rise in violence levels; and that arrest numbers will climb. Beyond that, however, it remains to be seen whether the announcement will hasten a decision in Washington to restrict financial flows through Hong Kong or result in any other damage to the city’s economy caused by a loss of investor confidence.
Key to monitor is whether the decision can be effective in quelling the protests. This, too, is hard to guess at the moment. It will likely embolden the more radical protesters, and radicalize others who had previously been hesitant to commit acts of violence. Yet it will also likely result in violent protesters being taken out of action quicker, blunting the protests as their more charismatic leadership is neutralized. Whether this turns out to be net positive or negative will take time to ascertain.
In the meantime, and apologies if this sounds Cyclopian, but the Greater Bay Area is not likely to be able to chug along as normal and pretend that what’s happening in Hong Kong won’t affect the rest. Putting aside the damage inflicted on the region by plunging international tourism – especially business tourism – it is important to be realistic about the effects of the Hong Kong crisis on the pace and scope of reforms being implemented in the GBA.
Continue reading Bracing for a drop in Hong Kong
Hong Kong remains China’s key gateway for foreign investment despite the protests, according to the latest data from Beijing. As SCMP reports, China received US$62.9 billion in foreign direct investment via Hong Kong in the first eight months of this year, accounting for 70 per cent of total inflows. The rise was even sharper once the monthly number for August was calculated: US$7.53 billion, up 29.2% from the same month last year.
It’s hard to blame or credit these flows on anything Hong Kong is doing, as Investment decisions into China are often months, if not years, in the planning. Still, the numbers might bring some comfort at a time when the tourism pillar of the economy is crumbling.
According to this SCMP report, Causeway Bay is struggling, with one in ten shops standing empty and thousands of staff facing job losses. We think a very painful withdrawal experience lies ahead as the city is forced off the drug that it has been hooked on since 2003. Mainland tourists have other options, including Macau, and once mainland tariffs on imported goods start being completely repealed, they will likely have little reason to come back – even if the protests somehow start to subside.
Across the city, the hotel industry is reeling. But landlords appear to be doing what they do best: forcing management companies to let go of staff while they figure out the best way to reconvert the buildings into office space. And they are in the meantime looking to move their real-estate projects as fast as possible before prices start to fall off a cliff as the government strong-arms them into offering below-market discounts.
Hong Kong needs a big, new vision for its future.
Caixin Global has a series of charts taking a deeper look at how intertwined Hong Kong’s economy is with the mainland. They are well worth a look. Highlights:
Continue reading Hong Kong and the mainland’s intertwined economies