It’s Not Just Me

I just happened upon a very interesting commentary in the Chinese language “China Youth News” (Zhongguo Qingnian Bao) (I realize I need to get a life).  Link is here: http://zqb.cyol.com/content/2009-04/21/content_2631111.htm and I have pasted the full Chinese text at the bottom of this post (with the hope that readers of Chinese will correct my understanding of the article if I got it wrong).  In very summary form, the commentary:

Starts by noting that the head of SASAC (the Chinese agency that oversees SOEs) Li Rongrong recently boasted about the huge increases in the profits earned by SOEs and stated that the high salary that he and SOE managers get are clearly justified on this basis.

But the commentary then goes on to make the point that Chinese SOEs earn lots of money by staying in their home market.  According to the article, Chinese SOEs can’t compete abroad with multinationals because the SOEs lack sufficient management skills, appetite for risk, high enough level of service, etc.  So, while they can make money at home where they get preferences, the losers are Chinese consumers who get products/services at higher prices with lower quality.  For example, the commentary notes that a long distance phone call that would cost a few US cents in the US costs a US dollar in China. 

In the final two paragraphs the commentary says:

“As China continues to open, the Chinese market must become a part of the world market.  When that happens, only enterprises that are equipped to compete internationally will survive in the open domestic market.  It is a fact that Chinese SOEs are profitable but it is also an indisputable fact that they are not able to compete with multi-national companies on a level field. Being profitable behind a closed door, operating without going out are two sides of the coin for SOEs; one is a beautiful scene (?) and the other is shameful.

SOEs are profitable but the leaders of SOEs should not be in a rush to talk about how much wisdom and sweat they are putting out, nor be in a rush to say that their high salaries are reasonable. The issues everyone should be seriously considering are, when time comes to face an internationalized China market can SOEs compete on a level field with multinational companies, and where will SOEs go ?”

Sounds like something I could have written.  I hope this contributes to the understanding that on all issues, including the role of SOEs in the Chinese economy, the views of Chinese people are far from monolithic.  Hot debate surrounds most of these issues.

BEGIN CHINESE TEXT:

 

冰点时评

 

关起门来赚钱的好日子能维持多久

 

杨于泽

中青在线-中国青年报 2009-04-21

国资委主任李荣融19日在博鳌亚洲论坛上介绍,今年3月,中央企业利润环比上升

86%。中央国企赚钱了,而且是在世界经济一派萧条的情况下,风景这边独好,这已成为李

荣融们的骄傲。

记得在去年8月国新办新闻发布会上,李荣融声称,”世界上找不到我这样一位好老

板”。他的逻辑是,”因为老板最重要的是,伙计给你挣得钱多,你应该也给他多点,伙计

完不成任务,就请他走人。”而他领导的国资委,用每年多支出4600万元薪酬,换来每年

1500亿元新增利润。国企赚了钱,现在已成为一个铁证,一来证明国企领导人有本事,一来

证明他们高薪合理。

但就在博鳌亚洲论坛上,李荣融也坦承,”中国企业现在’走出去’最大的问题,我认

为是管理问题”。管理有问题,管理能力不足,以至于走不出国门,但国企却能够大幅盈

利。中国工商银行、中国石油、中国移动三大企业去年利润均超千亿,名列全球十大赚钱企

业。相形之下,一些跨国公司却在巨亏。从这种鲜明对比中,我们应当可以看出一些问题。

企业为什么要跨国经营?那是因为国内市场竞争激烈,企业利润率下降,必须开拓国际

市场。一家发达国家的企业进入发达国家,好处是占有市场,薄利多销;一家发达国家的企

业进入不发达国家,则可以凭借价格、服务优势,赚取暴利。近两年,一些跨国公司在国内

巨亏,却在中国赚钱,就是跨国经营带来的好处。

中国国企走不出去,自然有李荣融所说的管理问题,但管理能力不足只是”果”,

“因”在于走出去的动力不足。现在国企是”举全国之力”,铺起了大摊子,占领了中国市

场。在客观上,它排斥了外资的进入,也排斥了私人资本的进入,形成垄断或准垄断。国企

在国内就可以赚大钱,那跨国经营对它来说就是多此一举。既然不需要走出去,还要跨国经营的管理能力干什么?

而跨国经营的管理能力不足,又必然会带来国内后果。一定的管理能力,意味着一定的

价格、服务水平。打比方说,美国打一个长话收费几美分,而在中国,收费可能是一美元。

事实上,与在华赚钱的跨国公司相比,国企赚钱有其特殊性。至少是在所谓”资源性行

业”,国企报出的价格是”成本+利润”,其中的成本、利润都是由企业或国家单方面给

定,而非市场竞争的结果。国企盈利有了绝对保障,而消费者在价格、服务上却受到重大损

害。

全民出资建立国企,初衷应该不是为了赚钱,而是为了保障供给。但在建立国企之后,

国企必须在市场竞争中生存下去,于是国企必须赚钱,必须具备价格、服务上的竞争力。国

企作为企业,在一个全球化时代,内在地必须成为跨国公司,才能获得其所需的市场竞争

力。但国企参与国际竞争,蕴含巨大的市场风险,这是国有资产不能承受之重。这使得国企

与国资成为一个巨大悖论。

随着中国继续对外开放,中国市场必然成为世界市场的一部分。到那时,只有那些具备

国际竞争力的企业,才能在开放的市场上生存下去。中国国企现在赚钱,这是事实,但他们

无法与跨国公司同台竞争,也是不争的事实。关起门来赚钱,经营走不出国门,这是国企的

正反两面,一面十分风光,一面十分可耻。

国企现在赚钱,但国企领导人不要急着说自己付出了智慧和汗水,不要急着说自己高薪

合理。面对国内市场世界市场化,国企能否与跨国公司同台竞争,国企向何处去,这才是大

家应当认真思考的问题。

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