US threats to impose sanctions on big Chinese companies over Beijing’s support for North Korea have sparked a guessing game over the form such measures might take, and the potential fallout.
On Tuesday US president Donald Trump warned that the UN’s latest sanctions were “nothing compared to ultimately what will have to happen”, while Ed Royce, chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, said Washington should target “major Chinese banks doing business with North Korea”.
9月12日，美国总统唐纳德?特朗普(Donald Trump)警告说，联合国(UN)最新的对朝制裁“比起最终不得不发生的事情根本算不上什么”，而美国众议院外交事务委员会主席埃德?罗伊斯(Ed Royce)称，美国的目标应该是“与朝鲜有生意往来的大型中资银行”。
The Financial Times has examined the most likely targets for unilateral US action against Chinese groups and the potential blowback from Beijing. Here are some key questions.
Why is the US considering further unilateral action?
Mr Trump has identified the reining in of North Korea’s nuclear programme as his top foreign policy priority and has consistently urged China to do more to put pressure on its Communist neighbour. But Pyongyang’s weapons trials have continued unabated, with the regime testing numerous missiles this year and its sixth and largest nuclear bomb this month.
While the UN on Monday agreed its strongest sanctions yet against the Kim Jong Un regime, the resolution won support from China and Russia only after stronger US proposals, including a total oil embargo, had been watered down.
9月11日当联合国通过对金正恩(Kim Jong Un)政权采取迄今为止最严厉制裁的决议时，中国和俄罗斯投了赞成票；但相对于美国之前提出的一些更严苛的提议（包括完全的石油禁运），此决议已有所折中。
Meanwhile, sanctions imposed by the US earlier this year on small Chinese companies such as Bank of Dandong, a regional lender based on the border with North Korea, have not inflicted significant pain on China.
与此同时，今年早些时候美国针对丹东银行(Bank of Dandong)等中国小型企业实施的一系列制裁措施，并没有让中国感到切肤之痛。丹东银行是一家位于中朝边境的地方银行。
“If the US only sanctions small players it confirms the view of many Chinese that the administration is a paper tiger,” says David Loevinger, former senior co-ordinator for China affairs at the US Treasury and managing director of emerging markets sovereign research at TCW Group. “The big question is whether the US will ‘go nuclear’ and cut off a medium-to-large Chinese bank from the US financial system.”
“如果美国只拿小企业开刀，就会坐实许多中国人的观点，即美国政府是只纸老虎，”前美国财政部中国事务高级协调员、现任TCW集团(TCW Group)新兴市场主权研究董事总经理的洛文杰(David Loevinger)说，“重要的是美国会不会‘动真格’、切断一家中到大型中资银行与美国金融体系的联系。”
Which Chinese companies are most likely to be targeted?
Large state-owned banks and energy companies appear to be in the crosshairs. Mr Royce cited state-owned Agricultural Bank of China, the country’s third-largest lender by assets, and China Merchants Bank, the sixth-largest, as possible targets.
大型国有银行和能源公司似乎会被列为目标。罗伊斯提出，国有的中国农业银行(Agricultural Bank of China)，以及招商银行(CMB)可能会成为目标。这两家银行分别是以资产计中国第三大和第六大银行。
Peter King, a US congressman from New York, has also called for Bank of China, the country’s fourth-largest, to be among those facing sanctions. “UN must impose oil embargo on N Korea ASAP,” he said last week on Twitter. “If China or Russia veto, US must sanction any1 doing business with NK, including Bank of China.”
Chinese banks had $142bn in US assets at the end of March, with BoC accounting for the largest share, according to Federal Reserve data.
The Financial Times reported on Monday that branches of China’s five biggest banks had stopped opening new accounts for North Korean individuals and companies. But the impact of these moves was unclear, since much trade with North Korea occurs through Chinese intermediaries.
China National Petroleum Corp is another potential target. China supplies more than 90 per cent of North Korea’s crude oil imports, according to Eurasia Group. Most of that comes from CNPC.
中国石油天然气集团公司(China National Petroleum Corporation)是另一个潜在目标。根据欧亚集团(Eurasia Group)的数据，朝鲜90%的进口原油都是中国供应的。其中大多数来自中国石油天然气集团公司。
How exposed are Chinese companies?
For China, much would depend on how US authorities calibrate their action. While the US assets of China’s six largest banks comprise only 1 per cent of their global total, a full shutdown of access to the US would have an outsized impact.
The central role of the US dollar in global trade and investment requires foreign banks to clear payments through the US, even if they are doing business elsewhere. That requires a dollar clearing licence from US authorities.
Sanctions against CNPC could also create collateral damage for US companies that work with the Chinese group. ExxonMobil, once led by now US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, sells 2.25m tonnes per year of liquid natural gas to CNPC’s Hong Kong-listed subsidiary PetroChina under a contract signed in 2009. Chevron, the second-largest US oil company, owns 49 per cent of a joint venture with PetroChina to develop a natural gas field in south-west China that began production in 2015.
Unilateral sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine illustrate the danger. Those measures destroyed a series of multibillion deals between Exxon and Rosneft, which is owned by the Russian government, to develop energy reserves in the Arctic and Siberia.
How might China respond?
Experts say unilateral US moves against Chinese businesses would almost certainly spark retaliation against US companies, much of it unofficial.
The campaign of “boycott diplomacy” and regulatory attacks on South Korean companies in response to Seoul’s decision to host a US missile shield offers a possible blueprint for China’s response.
“Imposing US sanctions on big Chinese banks and companies would be a risky strategy. In general, they are not violating UN sanctions, so China will view it as a hostile act,” says David Dollar, former economic and financial emissary for the US Treasury in Beijing. “We can expect China to retaliate. It may do this in a subtle way, steering business away from US firms in a range of sectors such as aircraft, agriculture, and entertainment.”
Both Mr Dollar and Mr Loevinger say US business interests would probably work behind the scenes to oppose harsh action against China.
“The US will still be reluctant to sanction large Chinese banks or [state-owned enterprises] given the risks of a strong negative reaction from Beijing and in international financial markets,” Scott Seaman and Evan Medeiros of Eurasia Group wrote in a note.
“考虑到北京和国际金融市场可能出现的强烈负面反应，美国还是会不太情愿制裁大型中资银行或者（国有企业）。”欧亚集团的斯科特?西曼(Scott Seaman)和麦艾文(Evan Medeiros)在一份简报中写道。