We do fancy a bit of aspirational daydreaming now and then, dear readers–as you’ll no doubt have noticed. So we can hardly blame those on the other side for whom the grass beneath our feet seems greener.
Take recent events in our home away from home, Hong Kong, for example. There, shares made available to mainland investors via the much-vaunted, previously neglected stock market linkup bolted upward suddenly when some of the shine came off Shanghai’s stock exchange (if only briefly). Yet traders inland had little interest in dependable, large-cap offerings listed on Hong Kong’s bourse. Instead they availed themselves of arbitrage opportunities placed on-menu from dual-listed firms, whose harbor-side share prices were lower than corresponding mainland stocks’ rally-rabid valuations.
So hungry were mainland investors for greater gains that their greed grew into an eight-day winning streak, the Himalayan heights of which the territory’s bourse hadn’t seen in seven years.
But just across the border in Guangdong things had rarely seemed so dire. China’s exports fell 15% in March. In local capital Guangzhou organizers of the biannual Canton Fair, long a bellwether of import-export expectations for the broader economy, admitted they foresaw a corresponding drop in attendance.
Meanwhile, long-suffering property developer Kaisa, having just announced that a ban on Shenzhen-based projects had been lifted, fired three new hires from the firm planning to acquire it. But any local execs hoping to book it south across the border may have found themselves rebuffed had they been to Hong Kong less than seven days before, as mainland authorities had announced that Shenzhen residents would henceforth be allowed only one visit to said special autonomous region each week.
Yet Hong Kong is no problem-free financial paradise, we’d remind. For example, some lawmakers recently had the unmitigated gall to point out that maybe, just maybe, it was a bad idea for the same company running the Hong Kong Stock Exchange to also be listed on said bourse. Said firm had, after all, become the biggest beneficiary of an incessant flow hot, fast money from inland investors, a cash flow that it had every reason to encourage with vague promises of greater regulatory easing.
Yes, it’s as they say: “The grass is always greener on the other side.” But anyone who has trekked through inland urban China — or for that matter saw the official first-quarter GDP figure of 7% released this week — probably knows the other half of that proverb, usually left untranslated from the original Chinese: “Because it’s been spray-painted green.”