Global bankers are 'very pro-China', says UBS chairman

Global bankers are ‘very pro-China’, says UBS chairman

Global bankers are all “very pro-China,” UBS Chairman Colm Kelleher said at a financial forum in Hong Kong, where Chinese officials sought to woo international investors on Wednesday.

Hong Kong is seeking to bolster its status as an international financial hub at the conference, after a crackdown on civil society and years of tough pandemic restrictions sparked an exodus and raised fears the city could lose business to the benefit from the Asian hub of Singapore.

Chinese officials have used pre-recorded video interviews to reassure international investors of the country’s economic strength as it battles a slump in the property sector and slumping growth driven by its strict zero-Covid policy.

“We don’t read the American press, we actually buy the [China] history,” said Kelleher, chairman of the world’s largest wealth manager. “But it’s a bit [of a matter of] waiting for zero-Covid to open in China to see what will happen.

His reference to the media was an apparent joke and a nod to previous remarks made by Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, during a pre-recorded segment of the event.

Fang told attendees, “I would advise international investors to find out what is really going on in China and what our government’s real intention is for themselves. Don’t read the international media too much.

Fang’s comments, which came after a record sell-off in Chinese stocks last week following President Xi Jinping’s consolidation of power, drew laughter and applause from the audience. “Don’t bet against China and Hong Kong,” he added.

Kelleher was speaking during a panel with Goldman Sachs chief David Solomon, Morgan Stanley chief James Gorman, Blackstone chief financial officer Michael Chae and Bank of China president Liu Jin.

Earlier in the day, Yi Gang, Governor of the People’s Bank of China, said he hoped to “achieve a soft landing” when asked about the central bank’s support and outlook for the housing market, which struggled with a liquidity crunch and a wave of defaults.

State media in China pushed a narrative of economic resilience and recovery following the 20th Communist Party Congress, where Xi secured an unprecedented third term as leader.

Analysts, however, say China’s economic outlook has deteriorated in recent months as Xi’s strict zero Covid policy has led to shutdowns across large swaths of the country.

Among the latest high-profile lockdowns reported by international media this week include the closure of Shanghai Disneyland after a guest tested positive for Covid-19 and the flight of workers from the world’s largest iPhone factory to Zhengzhou. to escape the threat of quarantine.

“China’s global lockdowns have steadily tightened since August and intensified further over the past month,” said Ernan Cui, analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics in Beijing.

“Even if the Covid containment regime remains largely effective and another wave of lockdowns is largely averted, the cost of subvariant control is clearly rising rapidly and will further strain the economy,” Cui said.

The Hong Kong government has made a point of ensuring the forum goes ahead as planned, giving attendees some respite from some pandemic restrictions that apply elsewhere in the city.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan mingled with the crowd of financiers and spoke without a mask, despite recently testing positive for Covid.

On the sidelines, HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn said he thought China’s outlook was positive when asked if he thought Hong Kong was back.

In an apparent rejoinder made later in the day, Mark Carney, the former Governor of the Bank of England, told attendees: “I would like to congratulate the international media, and I believe what I read in the international media. “

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