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中國和東南亞:在經濟關係中浮現問題

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作者:Walden Bello;翻譯:曾金燕;校對:楊方義

中國對非洲國家公開示好的一個例證是11月份第一個星期在北京舉辦的中非合作論壇。問題來了:中國如何處理她與近鄰的經濟關係?

東盟,也就是東南亞國家聯盟,也許是中國最重視的區域。因此中國與此區域的關係,將為北京對發展中國家經濟外交演變提供暗示。

乍看,似乎中國與東南亞國家聯盟的關係是積極的。畢竟,中國飛速甚至是危險的經濟增長帶來需求,成為東南亞2003年前後開始增長的一個關鍵因素。在此之前,東南亞國家經濟增長緩慢,而且主要依賴於國內需求。事實上韓國和日本的情況也一樣。聯合國貿易與發展會議報告中形容整個亞洲2003年和2004年年初的經濟情況:“中國是亞洲地區大多數經濟實體增長的主要動力。中國的進口增長甚至超過了它的出口,其中相當大比例的進口來自亞洲其他國家。”

一個更加複雜的情況

快速行駛軌道上通往經濟天堂的列車,中國如同火車頭拉動亞洲其他國家的經濟——真實情況要比這一情景更加複雜。廣泛傳播的一種恐懼是:東南亞實際上在為中國的增長支付成本。中國的低工資,已經使本地與國際製造商把他們在東南亞相對高工資的生產逐步轉移到中國,這正是東南亞國家所擔憂的。這已有一些 證據。1994年人民幣貶值使得一些外國直接投資從東南亞轉移到中國。1997年金融危機後,東盟外資流向中國的趨勢加劇了。東盟國家的外國直接投資從90年代中期佔亞洲外國直接投資總額的30%資縮減到2000年的10%。2001年和2002年,下降的趨勢仍在持續,據聯合國世界投資報告顯示,這個下降趨勢部分由於“來自中國上升的競爭力”。日本是該地區最具活力的外國投資者,在一份日本政府的調查顯示,讓東南亞國家擔憂的,57%的日本製造業跨國公司發現中國比東盟4國(泰國、馬來西亞、印尼和菲律賓)更具吸引力。

貿易關係中的障礙

貿易是另一個,也許是更令人關注的領域。過去的幾年裏,中國積極地與東盟各政府尋求自由貿易協定。這個努力已經取得一定的成就。2003年,泰國和中國達成一個“早期收穫”的自由貿易協定。2004年11月在老撾萬象舉辦的第十屆東盟峰會上,東盟國家簽發了一份聯合聲明,表示在2010年前,取消東盟國家和中國之間所有的貿易關稅。在這個會議上,被提議的《中國-東南亞國家聯盟自由貿易協定》有一個亮點:菲律賓總統阿羅約夫人高調地說一個“強大的區域組合”的出現將能與美國和歐盟相抗衡。

然而,事情進展得並不像北京期望的那樣順利。在泰國和中國試驗性商定中,這兩國同意200多種蔬菜和水果的關稅會立即消除。根據協定,泰國將向中國出口熱帶水果,與此同時中國向泰國出口零關稅的冬令水果。然而,幾個月後,預期的雙贏利益消失了,大多數泰國評論承認說泰國與中國做了一個壞買賣。正如一個評估所言:“雖然泰國-中國早期收穫協議的範圍很小,它對整個產業的影響也是顯而易見的。這‘顯而易見的影響’已經擊敗了泰國北部大蒜和紅洋蔥生產者,並使得皇家項目中溫帶水果和蔬菜生產規模削減。”泰國報紙指出,當泰國政府為中國產品清除障礙時,中國南部的官員拒絕按照協議保證的降低關稅。

中國-泰國“早期收穫”協議帶來的一個結果是,泰國水果和蔬菜種植者的憤恨成為一個因素,導致了他信政府更大範圍的自由貿易議程在公眾心中普遍幻滅,反對自由貿易成為社會運動的突出特點,最後9月中旬軍事政變驅逐了他信政權。

泰國“早期收穫”的經驗,事實上不但在泰國而且在整個東南亞造成了驚慌。它增長了東盟成為中國極具競爭力工業和農業產品傾銷地的恐懼,因為中國的工農部門由於持續來自鄉村的極度廉價農民工而可以壓低價格。人們想知道如果與中國簽訂自由貿易協定是否不簡單地使中國產品傾銷合法化,這些產品其中一大部 分已經通過與中國接鄰的國土或海域被走私——如越過中國南海走私到菲律賓。

中國的觀點

對中國官方來說,中國與東盟國家自由貿易協議的利益是顯而易見的。根據中國經濟學家胡鞍鋼的說法,策略的目標是使得中國作為“世界製造行業中心”更加充分地融入到全球經濟中。計畫的一個中心部分是為中國製造業產品打開東盟市場。由於美國和歐盟的貿易保護主義在增長,僅僅佔有中國出口8.2%份額的東南亞被認為是吸收中國產品的一個具有大潛力的重要市場。胡注解:關鍵的是,中國政府計畫吸引“東盟國家投資到中國西部地區,使得西部地區更加徹底地融入 到區域和國際貿易建構中”

東盟:一個淨受益者?

儘管阿羅約總統和其他東盟國家領導人說了一些華麗的話語,東盟如何從東盟-中國自由貿易協定中受益更加不明朗。人們高度懷疑,中國是否脫離胡所形容的“半開放模式”——在出口上實行自由貿易,開放市場,但卻在進口上實行保護主義。

當然,利益不會進入勞動增長型的製造業。中國通過持續施加壓力壓低工資來滿足該行業一個不可擊敗的優勢,來自農村的勞動力似乎無窮無盡,他們每年的平均工資只有285美元。當然,利益也不會進入高科技產業,儘管連美國和日本對中國快速發展的高科技行業的驚人能力非常恐懼,儘管恰好在勞動增長型產品中結合了高科技的優勢。當然,利益也不會進入服務業,中國有工程師、護士和國內工人,他們和東盟同樣的工作人員比,做著相同的工作卻領著更低的工資。例 如,中國最近對船員的部署已經威脅了菲律賓為全球提供海員的優勢地位。

東盟的農業會成為一個淨收益者嗎?從泰國“早期收穫”經驗來看,中國從溫帶作物到亞熱帶產品,在一系列農產品和農業加工中,有顯著的超級競爭力。越南和泰國的大米,印尼和越南的咖啡,菲律賓的椰子和椰子產品,可能有能力保持它們的地位,但再也沒有其他的產品可以和中國競爭了。

原料方面呢?當然,印尼和馬來西亞有中國短缺的石油,馬來西亞有橡膠和錫,菲律賓有棕櫚油和金屬。然而,再一看帶來一個疑問:如果與中國的關係不重複老殖民地的勞動分工,為何低勞動附加值的天然資源和農業產品被船運到中心(中國),與此同時東南亞經濟吸收來自歐洲和美國的高勞動附加值製造業產品。

艱難的事實

因此,巨大的不平衡將可能是東盟國家與中國自由貿易協議的結果。

在區域整合的花言巧語下,東盟的經濟體仍然主要是10個孤立的經濟體,根據許多觀察,東盟的問題仍舊大量存在。東盟通過創造一個完整的擁有4億5千萬消費者的市場來實現替代的產業計畫的遠景並沒有實現,這個計畫將通過成員國間增長的更自由的貿易,同時對第三國產品徵收高關稅和實行配額來完成。東南亞國家花了30多年來建立一個“東南亞國家聯盟體”,但他們已經浪費了機會。如果東盟朝著它的創辦者設想的路線前進,它就不會由於成員面臨中國的崛起而出現的混亂。

簡而言之,東盟依舊是一個非常脆弱的經濟體。快速地與中國簽訂自由貿易協定,很可能導致一個和中國與泰國的早期收穫協議相同的後果。就算中國向東盟許諾減免高額的關稅,東盟也無力與中國工農業產品強大的競爭力抗衡。在這節骨眼上,東盟-中國自由貿易協定,或更像是,中國孤立地與各個東盟國家的自由 貿易協定,只會導致東盟的工業化受限和農業危機。

東盟和中國的關係不是殖民關係。在這點上甚至不能說是剝削關係。但至少在北京與其鄰居的經濟關係談判中,對公平、公正的考慮應當放在前列和中心。東南亞和歐洲、美國、日本關係舊有的結構模式,是很容易被複製的。(全文完)

Walden Bello是菲律賓大學的社會學教授,也是關注南半球(Focus on the Global South)的執行主任。他就國際經濟和政治問題著有許多書籍和文章。他的電子郵件位址是:waldenbello[at]yahoo.com。

這篇論文為諾涕勒斯安全與可持續發展研究所(Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development)而作。

英文原文如下:
China and Southeast Asia: Emerging Problems in an Economic Relationship*
By Walden Bello

The much publicized wooing of African countries by China exemplified by the China-Africa meeting that took place in Beijing in the first week of November brings up the question of how China is faring in its economic relations with its closest neighbors?

Southeast Asia, which is formally grouped into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is probably the region most courted by China, so the latter’s relations with the area would give some indication of the likely evolution of Beijing’s economic diplomacy toward other parts of the global South.

At first glance, it seems like the China-ASEAN relationship has been positive. After all, demand from a Chinese economy growing at a breakneck pace was a key factor in Southeast Asian growth beginning around 2003, after a period of low growth dependent on domestic demand. Indeed, this was also the case for Korea and Japan. For Asia as a whole, in 2003 and the beginning of 2004, noted an UNCTAD report, “China was a major engine of growth for most of the economies in the region. The country’s imports accelerated even more than its exports, with a large proportion of them coming from the rest of Asia.”

A More Complex Picture

Yet the picture was more complex than that of a Chinese locomotive pulling the rest of East Asia along with it on a fast track to economic nirvana. There have been widespread fears that China’s growth is, in fact taking place at Southeast Asia’s expense. Low wages, many in Southeast Asia feared, has encouraged local and foreign manufacturers to phase out their operations in relatively high wage Southeast Asia and moving them to China. There appears to be some support for this. China’s devaluation of the yuan in 1994 had the effect of diverting some foreign direct investment away from Southeast Asia. The trend of ASEAN losing ground to China accelerated after the financial crisis of 1997. In 2000, foreign direct investment in ASEAN shrank to 10 per cent of all foreign direct investment in developing Asia, down from 30 per cent in the mid-nineties. The decline continued in 2001 and 2002, with the United Nations World Investment Report attributing the trend partly to “increased competition from China.” Since the Japanese have been the most dynamic foreign investors in the region, much apprehension in the ASEAN capitals greeted a Japanese government survey that revealed that 57 per cent of Japanese manufacturing TNCs found China to be more attractive than the ASEAN-4 (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines).

Snags in a Trade Relationship

Trade was another, perhaps greater, area of concern. In the last few years, China has aggressively sought free trade agreements with the ASEAN governments. This push appears to have met with some success. Thailand and China concluded an “early harvest” free trade pact in 2003. And at the 10th ASEAN Summit held in Vientiane, Laos, in November 2004, the ASEAN countries issued a joint statement expressing agreement with the goal of removing all tariffs between ASEAN and China by the year 2010. At that meeting, a positive spin on the proposed China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement was provided by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who hailed the emergence of a “formidable regional grouping” that would rival the United States and the European Union.

Yet, things have not proceeded as smoothly as Beijing would have wanted. In the experimental arrangement between Thailand and China, the two countries agreed that tariffs on more than 200 items of vegetables and fruits would be immediately eliminated. Under the agreement, Thailand would export tropical fruits to China while winter fruits from China would be eligible for the zero-tariff deal. The expectations of mutual benefit evaporated after a few months, however, with most Thai commentaries admitting that Thailand got a bad deal. As one assessment put it, “despite the limited scope of the Thailand-China early harvest agreement, it has had an appreciable impact in the sectors covered. The "appreciable impact" has been to wipe out northern Thai producers of garlic and red onions and to cripple the sale of temperate fruit and vegetables from the Royal projects.” Thai newspapers pointed to officials in Southern China refusing to bring down tariffs as stipulated in the agreement while the Thai government brought down the barriers to Chinese products.

Resentment at the results of the China-Thai “early harvest” agreement among Thai fruit and vegetable growers was, in fact, one of the factors that contributed to widespread disillusionment with the broader free trade agenda of the Thaksin government; and opposition to free trade was a prominent feature of the popular mobilizations that culminated in the ouster of that regime in mid-September by a military coup.

The Thai early harvest experience, in fact, created consternation not just in Thailand but throughout Southeast Asia. It stoked fears of ASEAN becoming a dumping ground for China’s extremely competitive industrial and agricultural sectors, which could drive down prices owing to cheap urban labor that was continually replenished by dirt cheap labor streaming from the countryside. People wondered if FTA’s with China would not simply legalize the dumping of Chinese goods, a great deal of which were already being smuggled across their land borders with China or, in the case, of the Philippines, across the South China Sea.

The Chinese View

For Chinese officials, the benefits to China of an FTA with ASEAN were clear. The aim of the strategy, according to Chinese economist Angang Hu, was to more fully integrate China into the global economy as the “center of the world’s manufacturing industry.” A central part of the plan was to open up ASEAN markets to Chinese manufactured products. In light of growing protectionist sentiment in the US and European Union, Southeast Asia, which absorbed only 8.2 percent of China’s exports was seen as an important market with tremendous potential to absorb more Chinese goods. Also key, noted Hu, was the Chinese government’s plan to attracting investment “into the western region of China from ASEAN nations, weaving the western region more thoroughly into the fabric of regional and international trade.”

ASEAN: a Net Beneficiary?

Despite brave words from President Arroyo and other ASEAN leaders, it was much less clear how ASEAN would benefit from the ASEAN-China FTA. It was highly doubtful that China would depart from what Hu has characterized as China’s “half open model,” which is marked by “open or free trade on the export side and protectionism on the import side.”

Certainly, the benefits would not come in labor-intensive manufacturing, where China enjoyed an unbeatable edge by the constant downward pressure on wages exerted by migrants from a seemingly inexhaustible rural work force that makes an average of $285 a year. Certainly not in high tech, since even the US and Japan were scared of China’s remarkable ability to move very quickly into high tech industries even as it consolidates its edge in labor-intensive production. Certainly not in labor services, since China could produce engineers, nurses, and domestic workers that would perform the same work but at lower wages than their ASEAN counterparts. For instance, China’s recent deployment of seafarers has threatened the Philippines premier position as a source of seamen globally.

Would agriculture in ASEAN be a net beneficiary? But, as the early harvest experience with Thailand showed, China was clearly super-competitive in a vast array of agricultural products from temperate crops to semi-tropical produce, and in agricultural processing. Vietnam and Thailand might be able to hold their own in rice production, Indonesia and Vietnam in coffee, and the Philippines in coconut and coconut products, but there might not be many more products to add to the list.

What about raw materials? Yes, of course, Indonesia and Malaysia had oil that was in scarce supply in China, and Malaysia did have rubber and tin and the Philippines had palm oil and metals. But a second look made one wonder if the relationship with China was not reproducing the old colonial division of labor, whereby low-value-added natural resources and agricultural products were shipped to the center while the Southeast Asian economies absorbed high-value added manufactures from Europe and the United States.

Hard Truths

Thus, drastic imbalance would likely be the result of free trade agreements between the ASEAN countries and China.

In the view of many, the problem lies largely with ASEAN, since despite the rhetoric of regional integration, ASEAN’s economies are still largely ten separate economies. The vision of creating an integrated market of 450 million consumers that was expressed by the original ASEAN plan for regional import substitution industrialization—one that would have been achieved via increasingly freer trade among member countries accompanied by high tariffs and quotas against third country products---was never implemented. The Southeast Asian nations had over 30 years to build an “ASEAN house,” and they had squandered the opportunity. Had ASEAN evolved along the lines envisioned by its founders, it would not have displayed the disarray with which its members confronted the rise of China.

In short, ASEAN remains a very weak economic entity. Moving quickly to conclude a free trade agreement with China is likely to lead to the same consequences as the early harvest agreement China had with Thailand. Even if China agreed to many ASEAN exemptions from steep tariff reductions, ASEAN would be locked into a process where the only direction that barriers to super-competitive Chinese industrial and agricultural goods would be downwards. At this juncture, an ASEAN-China FTA or, what is more likely, separate Chinese FTAs with different ASEAN countries, can only lead to de-industrialization and agricultural crisis in ASEAN.

The relationship between ASEAN and China is not a colonial relationship. It cannot even be said to be an exploitative one at this point. But unless considerations of equity are front and center in the negotiation of economic relationships between Beijing and its neighbors, the old structural patterns marking the relations between Southeast Asia and Europe, the United States, and Japan could easily be replicated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: *Walden Bello is professor of sociology at the University of the Philippines and executive director of Focus on the Global South. He is the author of numerous books and articles on international economic and political issues. He may be reached at waldenbello[at]yahoo.com.

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