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金 凯:为何美西方对香港地区的制裁不一定带来预期结果

    提要:美西方迄今为止宣布的制裁举措所产生的作用主要是象征性的,当然不能改变北京的计划

 

香港地区《国家安全法》的通过引发了国际社会各种各样的反应。很可能是出于意识形态和地缘政治双重原因,美国所作出的反应相对而言迅速而强烈,包括在国会通过了几项涉港法案,并对北京和香港的官员实施了有针对性的制裁措施。而这些惩罚性(punitive)措施当然有助于表明华盛顿有决心如其所誓言的那样“捍卫香港的民主和自由。”尽管如此,这些措施实际上并没有带来太多的实际影响。

为什么这样说?原因有多个。例如,美国国会通过并由唐纳德·特朗普总统签署的涉港法案,主要针对的是被指控所谓“破坏香港的自治权,限制香港公民的言论或集会自由”的公司或个人,或者是与在香港从事这些活动的公司或个人开展业务的实体。因而,只有特定的人(例如北京和香港的一些高级官员)才会在美方的制裁名单中出现。而实际上,被列入名单者所面临的最直接的不便可能就是诸如某些信用卡的使用受到限制等。到目前为止,在可能受到美国制裁影响的那些公司中,有很多是跨国公司,并且能够不断向其专业的法律团队进行咨询协商,以避免潜在和无意的所谓“违规行为”。此外,多样化配置他们的市场资源一直以来都是许多公司的考虑议程,或者至少是后备计划。

同时,许多学术界、媒体和专业领域的专家和评论人士声称,美国和国际社会针对北京在香港通过《国家安全法》而实施的制裁所能产生的作用有限。实际上,即便美国是世界上最强大的国家,但其在香港地区的影响力也是有限的。美国传统基金会亚洲研究中心主任沃尔特·洛曼(Walter Lohman)在7月份《每日来电者》(Daily Caller)的一篇评论文章中指出,“目前尚不清楚香港的示威者们是否曾了解美国的影响力对北京的计划所能产生影响的有限性。”

尽管许多人担心美国采取措施迫使香港摆脱美元联系汇率制,但美国彭博社在7月初的一项分析中称,香港金融管理局持有4,459亿美元的外汇储备,足以保卫与美元挂钩的联系汇率。通过引用几位专家的评论,这篇文章还指出,迫使香港摆脱美元联系汇率制,不仅会破坏其他地区的美元联系汇率制,而且还可能导致美国股市的抛售。彭博社在8月底发表的另一篇文章则进一步预测,随着数字人民币的试用有可能在香港地区开启,未来香港地区数字人民币的交易可以走向全球,并且绕过美元交易系统和受美国监视、控制的代理银行渠道以及相应的高昂费用。在这种情况下,香港现有的美元联系汇率制或将成为一种负担。

当然,还有其他更实际、更微观的经济和法律制裁措施,但北京在没有充分考虑和推演国际社会特别是美国及其他西方大国所有可能的反应措施的情况下,应该不会采取如此决定性的措施并通过港区《国安法》。正如美国企业研究所高级研究员丹尼尔·普莱特卡(Danielle Pletka)在7月初所说的那样,“中国似乎正确地进行了评估计算,即除了一些愤怒的言论和一些令人不快的经济惩罚措施外,世界(美西方)将无能为力(改变中国的决定)。”

关于美国在香港问题上寻求的中方可能作出的政策回应,美国国会研究处在8月初发布的一份报告中还称:“鉴于中国中央政府和香港特别行政区政府所发表的声明,针对中国和香港特别行政区政府的惩罚性措施可能不会带来国会所寻求的回应。”再以美国中止《美港税收协定》为例。该税收协定涵盖的贸易总量并不是那么巨大。大西洋理事会非驻院高级研究员芭芭拉·C·马修斯(Barbara C. Matthews)在9月份解释称,“中止税收协定是一项具技术性但重要的举措。。。不过鉴于美国与香港之间的双边贸易量并非巨大。。。即使能够引起政治方面的关注,重新征收税收也可能不会产生预期的效果。”的确,制裁措施有影响,但效果相对有限。

美国前驻香港总领事唐伟康(Kurt W. Tong)在8月下旬的一篇评论中解释说:“迄今为止,特朗普政府的涉港措施对美港关系的实际情况只产生了很小的影响,同时对外国企业对香港商业环境的看法所产生的负面影响虽然可见,但也较为有限。对中国的政策则没有明显的影响。”

需要指出的是,多年来,香港地区最大的贸易伙伴一直都是中国大陆,而不是对香港采取所谓惩罚措施的美国或其他任何西方主要大国。这个事实在将来也不会改变。这一事实似乎也帮助北京以强大的政治意愿落实港区《国家安全法》,更不用说香港是中国主权领土一部分这一无争的事实。

此时,英国的举动会如何呢?伦敦扩大获得英国国民(海外)即“BNO”政策适用范围的措施可能会给香港的未来带来一些不稳定因素,但这将取决于伦敦能够接纳多少持有BNO的港人,以及该政策能否在不引致大量英国国内反对的情况下得以顺利全面实施。英国《卫报》10月下旬的一篇报道指出,官方估计数字显示,五年内将有超过100万港人在BNO政策下移民至英国。但问题是:英国人是否足够慷慨大方,更重要的是,是否拥有足够的勇气敞开大门在短时间内接受数以百万计的新移民?毕竟,长期以来,移民问题一直困扰着包括英国在内的许多西方国家政府。或许一定数量的拥有BNO资格的熟练技术和专业移民甚至是顶尖人才可能会更容易进入这类移民程序。但是英国政府的这项政策特别是不久前宣布的具体实施规定表明,想当然地将新BNO政策视为对北京的“惩罚”和对香港人民的“礼物”是十分天真的想法。

关于对香港地区的正式制裁措施,英国外交大臣多米尼克·拉布(Dominic Raab)最近表示,英国“正在认真考虑在全球人权(GHR)规则下采取进一步措施。”英国已发表了涉港联合声明并暂停了与香港地区的引渡协议,但与单边主义总统领导下的美国不同,英国和欧盟在对北京及香港的所谓制裁问题上都保持着相对谨慎的态度。中国市场的吸引力可能仍是有决定性意义的。1999年,中国是英国的第26大出口市场;而在2019年上升至第6位,并且仍保持上升势头。出于实际考虑因素,英国政府可能并不想在(制裁)香港问题上过多地参与。

从西方的角度看,对北京和香港采取的实质性重大制裁措施需要所有主要西方国家在长期战略的基础上采取共同、集体和果断的行动。然而,新冠疫情以及世界各国所面临的各种内部外部问题似乎让许多计划都陷入了停顿。

 

(作者系广东省社会科学院国际问题研究所副研究员)

 

附英文原文:

Why International Sanctions on Hong Kong May Not Work as Expected

The moves announced so far are mostly symbolic – and far from enough to change Beijing’s calculus.

By Jin Kai

November 10, 2020

After the passage of the National Security Law (NSL) in Hong Kong, there were diverse reactions from the international community. Probably for both ideological and geopolitical reasons, the United States’ response was relatively prompt and strong, including passing several acts in the Congress and imposing targeted sanctions on individuals in both Beijing and Hong Kong. These punitive measures helped to demonstrate Washington’s resolve to protect the democracy and freedom of Hong Kong as it has vowed to do, but seem to have had little practical impact.

Why? There are a number of reasons. For example, the bills and acts passed in the U.S. Congress and signed by President Donald Trump have largely been targeting companies or individuals accused of “undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression or assembly of the citizens of Hong Kong,” or doing business with companies or individuals involved in those activities in Hong Kong. But only specific individuals, like some high-ranking officials in Beijing and Hong Kong, are on the list of targeted entities, and the most direct inconvenience even these people face, in practical terms, might be something like the limited usage of certain credit cards. Among those companies that might be affected by U.S. sanctions so far, quite a number are transnational corporations that are able to constantly consult with their professional legal teams in order to avoid potential and careless violations. Besides, diversifying their market resources has always been something on their agenda, or at least the backup plan.

Meanwhile, a number of experts and observers in academia, media, and professional fields have claimed that U.S. and international sanctions on Hong Kong over the passage of the NSL have limited use. The truth is that the United States, even as the strongest country in the world, has only limited power in Hong Kong. Walter Lohman, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, pointed out in an opinion article for the Daily Caller in July that “it’s not clear protesters in Hong Kong ever understood the limited impact American power could have on Beijing’s calculations.”

While many had worried that forcing Hong Kong off the dollar peg could be a “nuclear” level act, an analysis by Bloomberg in early July claimed that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority holds $445.9 billion in foreign exchange reserves to defend the peg should it need to. By quoting several experts and professionals, this piece also pointed out that forcing Hong Kong off its dollar peg would not only destabilize U.S. dollar pegs elsewhere, but also drive a selloff in U.S. equity markets. Another piece by Bloomberg in late August further predicted that as a digital renminbi trial starts in Hong Kong, digital RMB transactions from Hong Kong can go global, bypassing both the dollar and the heavy fees of correspondent banking channels, which are under American surveillance and control. In this scenario, Hong Kong’s existing currency peg will become a liability.

There are, of course, other more practical and micro-level economic and legal sanctions, but Beijing would not have made its decisive move to pass the NSL without full considerations and calculations of all possible reactions by the international community, especially the United States and other Western countries. As American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Danielle Pletka put in early July, “China appears to have rightly calculated that other than a few angry statements and some irritating economic punishments, the world would do nothing in the face of its aggression.”

In respect to the policy responses the United States seeks on the Hong Kong issue, a report released by the U.S. Congressional Research Service in early August also claimed that “Given the statements released by China’s Central Government and the HKSAR government, punitive measures directed at the PRC and HKSAR governments may not elicit the responses Congress seeks.” Let’s take the suspension of the U.S.-Hong Kong Tax Treaty as another example. The trade volume that this tax treaty covers is just not that significant. Barbara C. Matthews, nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, explained in September that even “suspending the tax treaty is a technical but significant move… but given the fact that the bilateral trading relationship between the United States and Hong Kong is just not that big… reintroducing a tax on revenue may not generate the preferred incentives even when it generates political attention.” Yes, there are impacts, but they are relatively moderate.

Kurt W. Tong, the former U.S. consul general to Hong Kong, explained in a commentary in late August that “The Trump administration’s steps thus far have had only a minor impact on the practicalities of U.S.-Hong Kong relations, along with a more tangible – but still relatively moderate – negative impact on foreign business views of the Hong Kong business environment. There has been no discernible impact on Chinese policy.”

It is important to note that – rather than the United States or any other major Western countries that have taken punitive actions on Hong Kong – it is mainland China that has been the biggest trade partner for Hong Kong for many years, and it will remain so in the future. This might have given Beijing the substantial confidence needed to introduce the NSL with a robust political will – not to mention the fact that Hong Kong is a part of China’s sovereign territory.

What about the United Kingdom’s moves? London’s move to expand access to British National Overseas (BNO) status policy might be disruptive to Hong Kong, but it depends on how many BNO holders from Hong Kong London can take in and how fast this policy can be fully implemented, particularly without attracting significant domestic repercussions or oppositions. In late October, the Guardian indicated that official estimates predict over 1 million people could come to the U.K. from Hong Kong within five years. The question is: Are the British generous and, more importantly, brave enough to just open the gate and accept millions of new immigrants? The immigration issue, after all, has long been troublesome for many governments in the West, including the U.K. We may expect that a certain number of skilled and professional immigrants or even top talents with BNO documents from Hong Kong might be able to move in more easily, but this policy and the subsequent specific regulations announced by the British government indicate that seeing the new BNO policy merely as a punishment for Beijing and a gift for Hong Kong people would be naïve.

As for formal sanctions over the Hong Kong issue, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab recently said that Britain is “carefully considering further designations under the Global Human Rights (GHR) regime.” There has been a joint statement and suspension of the extradition treaty with Hong Kong, but (unlike the U.S. under its very unilateral president), the U.K. and the EU have been relatively cautious on the question of sanctions against Beijing and Hong Kong. The lure of the Chinese market may be decisive. In 1999, China was the U.K.’s 26th largest export market; it became the sixth largest in 2019, and is still rising. For practical reasons, the British government may not want to bother too much with the Hong Kong issue.

Possibly significant sanction measures on Beijing and Hong Kong would require a joint, collective, and decisive move on the basis of long-term strategy among all major Western countries. Unfortunately, the pandemic and various domestic and international problems and issues seem to have put many other plans to a halt.

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Jin Kai is an Associate Professor at Guangdong Academy of Social Science, China, and a Non-Resident Scholar at Sigur Center for Asian Studies, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University.