HSBC has said that its greater China chief executive Helen Wong was resigning from the bank, adding fuel to speculation that the bank had provided information to help US prosecutors build a legal case against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, although HSBC denied these claims.
The Chinese government has taken a restrained attitude because it is not confirmed yet whether HSBC should be liable for the arrest of Huawei’s Meng.
In response to a question of whether HSBC will be included in the unreliable entities list by the Chinese government for the bank’s alleged role in the US investigation against Huawei, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a press briefing on August 2 that the list is still in the process of being compiled.
However, ordinary Chinese people attach great importance to the case, which has pushed HSBC into the eye of a public opinion storm. China is a key market for HSBC.
Can the bank bear the losses caused by retaliatory actions from Chinese customers?
Due to the ongoing trade war with the US and the evolving situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, ordinary Chinese people are highly sensitive to issues regarding national territory, sovereignty and interests. This is a sensitive period, during which foreign companies are advised to step up vigilance.
China’s core interests cannot be harmed, and this red line must be clearly understood by foreign companies. China always welcomes foreign investors and will give them greater access.
But if they cross the red line to damage the country’s core interests, they will incur big losses and there won’t be any exceptions.
HSBC is not the only company that has gotten into trouble. Italian luxury brand Versace has apologized in China for selling T-shirts that mislabeled Hong Kong and Macao as countries, but many Chinese netizens did not buy the apology.
Whatever its motivation, Versace had to swallow a bitter pill when it comes to infringement of China’s sovereignty.
The US government appears to be moving toward a comprehensive containment of China, exerting visible and invisible pressure on transnational enterprises.
Those companies must remain vigilant to avoid being used as a weapon by Washington to counter China. If they want to win the Chinese market, they need to learn how to respect China’s core interests first. In this special period, it is unwise for transnational enterprises to allow themselves to become cannon fodder in the US’ aggressive China policy.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times.