美國會否驅逐中國出Swift ?

作者: 冼國林 2022年4月23日

經濟




環球銀行金融電信協會 (SWIFT) 成立於 1971 年,其總部位於比利時。它是一個國際支付系統,由覆蓋全球 200 多個國家的 11000 多家金融機構組成。董事會由25名獨立董事組成,其中前6名主要股東可提名12名,第7-16大股東可提名16名,其他國家選舉產生3名。在這25位董事中,只有5位來自中國、日本、俄羅斯、新加坡和南非,其餘20位董事來自西方國家。而擁有實際權力的執行委員會則由7名成員組成; 2個來自美國,5個來自歐洲國家。在解了 Swift 的結構之後,大家可以知道, 儘管Swift它看起來很公平, 實際是由西方國家所控制。

毫無疑問,美國對Swift執委員會特有很大的影響力,但美國在執行委員中只有2票,這意味著美國對委員會並沒有絕對的控制權。在可能嚴重損害歐盟利益的極端情況下,美國要說服歐洲成員國毫無疑問地接受其提議卻並非容易之事。

比如2012年和2018年驅逐伊朗,美國就要很努力去說服歐盟,才最終勉強同意通過。 2014年克里米亞(Krymskiy)事件中,美國提出將俄羅斯驅逐出Swift,但卻被執行委員會拒絕,因為他們擔心這樣做會激怒俄羅斯,從而嚴重損害歐洲國家利益。

甚至在2019年香港發生黑暴期間, 美國曾經提出將香港逐出Swift,但最終亦不了了之。這告訴我們,即使美國在Swift具有影響力,歐盟成員國也會擔心驅逐行動是否會對自己造成傷害。就以最近Swift將一些俄羅斯銀行驅逐的行動為例,Swift.並沒有驅逐所有俄羅斯金融機構,而只是驅逐了少數幾家主要銀行。這可能反映出Swift還是有所保留,擔心過於嚴厲的行為也會傷害到自己而留一乎。

與伊朗不同,中國是世界第二大經濟體。其國際貿易額在國際結算中佔有非常重要的地位,亦是歐洲國家的大市場。因此,儘管可能性不能抹煞, 我不認為Swift執行委員會內的歐洲成員會輕易驅逐中國出Swift。

對於伊朗,在被Swift驅逐後,伊朗即時決定使用人民幣去結算石油交易款項。 在2010年,中石油公司成立了一家中資銀行, 崑崙銀行(由合作社升級),專門負責處理中伊之間石油交易的結算。 2012年,Swift驅逐崑崙銀行,此後,崑崙銀行便使用人民幣與伊朗結算,這是唯一一家被驅逐的中資銀行。崑崙銀行被驅逐後的現狀如何?他不單只業務沒有萎縮, 更因為成為唯一一家處理所有石油交易的銀行,而業務更蒸蒸日上,這完全出乎歐美國家的意料。

歐洲國家對俄羅斯天然氣供應的依賴程度遠遠超過伊朗, 在這方面,俄羅斯對歐洲國家的議價能力更強。現在俄羅斯要求歐洲國家以盧布作為結算貨幣,如果歐洲國家拒絕這樣做,他們將別無選擇,只能以更高的成本從美國購買天然氣,這可能會對歐洲國家造成破壞性的通貨膨脹。儘管一些歐洲國家表示將努力減少對俄羅斯供應的依賴,但遺憾的是,這在短期內, 這並非容易之事。除了歐洲市埸之外, 俄羅斯的另一個銷售渠道就是把天然氣賣給中國,而所有的結算都可以通過中國建立的另一個國際支付系統CIPS進行。

看了上面的分析,我們可以知道,美國要把中國趕出Swift並不容易,因為其後果無異於一枚超大金融核彈,不僅對中國有害, 更會為全世界帶來不可估計的毀滅性災難。因此, 可以肯定的是,歐洲國家絕對不願意這樣做。

我最擔心的是, 美國政府會宣佈對敵對國家或地區所持有的美元債券失效或沒收其美元資產, 因為這是美國完全可以控制。近期,中國中央政府有序減持美債, 這給我們的啟示是,美國政府可能會為了遏制中國的壯大而採取非理性的做法,極端的情況就是沒收中國的美元資產或宣布中國持有的債券無效。

很多人問我對新一屆特區政府有什麼建議,我總是說,前瞻性和危機意識是作為香港政府領導人不可缺少的要素。我認為政府應該自我審查一下持有多少美元資產或債券,看看我們是否應該採取保護性安排,而不是在事件發生時採取應對措施。

Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) was set up in 1971 where its headquarters is located in Belgium. It is an international payment system and consists of more than 11000 financial institutions covering 200 countries over the world. Its board of directors consists of 25 independent directors whereas 12 are nominated by the top 6 major shareholders, 16 are nominated by 7th-16th major shareholders and 3 are elected by other countries. Within these 25 directors only 5 come from China, Japan, Russia, Singapore and South Africa, the other 20 directors are from the Western countries. The executive committee of Swift which holds the actual power consists of 7 members; 2 from USA and 5 from Western countries. Having understood the structure of the Swift, now you may know that Swift is controlled by the Western countries although it apparently looks fair.

It has no doubt that USA has great influential power over Swift, however, as USA has only 2 votes in the executive members, it means that USA has not absolute control over the committee. In the extreme case which may cause serious hurt to the interest of European countries, it is not easy for USA to convince European members to follow its proposal without doubt.

For instance, the expel of Iran in 2012 and 2018, USA did try very hard to convince European members which finally reluctantly agreed. In 2014 Crimea (Krymskiy) incident, USA proposed to expel Russia from the Swift, however, the proposal was turned down by the Executive Committee as the European members were afraid that doing so would irritate Russia, that would consequently damage the interest of the European countries.

Even in 2019, during the period of the riot incident in Hong Kong, USA has proposed to expel HK from the Swift but it is finally in vain. This tells us that even if USA has influential power in the Swift, the European members will concern whether the expel action would incur damage to themselves. Referring the recent action to the expel of some Russian Banks from Swift, in this respect, Swift does not expel all Russian financial institutions but only few major banks. It may reflect that the Swift still have some reservation fearing that too harsh action may also hurt themselves.

Unlike Iran, China is the second largest economic body in the world. Its international trade volume plays a very important role in international settlement and is a big market for European countries. Therefore, I don’t think that, although the chance is not neglected, it is so easy for the European members of the Executive committee would dare to expel China.

For the Iran case, after it was expelled by the Swift, Iran immediately decided to use RMB to settle the payment of oil transactions. A Chinese bank, Bank of Kunlun (昆崙銀行), was set up in 2010 by PetroChina to handle the settlements between China and Iran for the oil transactions. In 2012, Swift expelled the Bank of Kunlun, thereafter, the Bank of Kunlun uses RMB and Euro for the settlement with Iran, this is the only one Chinese bank being expelled. What is the current situation of the Bank of Kunlun after it is expelled? As it becomes the only one bank handling all the oil transactions, the business is prosperous, that is totally out the expectation of the Western countries.

The reliance of the European countries on the natural gas supply by Russia is far much than Iran. In this respect, Russia has better bargaining power over the European countries. Now Russia requests the European countries to us RUB as settlement currency, if the European countries reject to do so, they have no alternative but to buy natural gas from USA at higher cost that may incur destructive inflation to the European countries. Although some European countries said that they will try to lessen the reliance on Russia’s supply, regretfully, it is not an easy way to do in short period. Besides selling the natural gas to Europe, the other sales channel for Russia is to sell the natural gas to China, then all settlements could be made through CIPS system, that is another international payment system set up by China.

Having read the above analysis, we may know that it is not easy for USA to expel China from Swift as the consequence is no difference from a super big nuclear bomb harmful to the whole world but not only China. It is quite sure that the European countries is very reluctant to do so.

What I concern most is the invalidation of USD bonds or forfeiture on USD assets by the USA government where he has absolute control power. China central government has been recently orderly reducing the holding US bonds. It inspires us that there may be potential risks that the USA government may take irrational approach for the sake of deterring the growing strong of China, the extreme situation is to forfeit USD assets of China or declare the USD bond held by China invalid.

Many people asked me if I have any advice to the new HKSAR government, I always say that perspicacity and crisis awareness are the indispensable essences of being leader of Hong Kong government. I think that the government should review how many USD assets or USD bonds we are holding and to see if we should take protective arrangements rather than taking reactive action while the events is happened.

22/4/2022

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