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贸易战僵局中求生的中国企业面临更大考验
U.S.-China Trade War Hits a New Phase, and a Boot Maker Trembles

来源:纽约时报    2019-09-03 06:51



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        DONGGUAN, China — Bruce Xu’s factory in southern China produces just about the most all-American footwear there is: real leather cowboy boots, complete with generous heels and expressive stitching up the sides.        中国东莞——布鲁斯·徐(Bruce Xu)在中国南方的工厂生产的,是一种最具美国特色的鞋:真皮牛仔靴,粗高跟,侧面有富有表现力的缝线。
        Lately, though, the trade war has made running an all-American business in China “a big headache, a big pain,” Mr. Xu says. And the pain, he acknowledges, is about to get worse.        不过他说,近来的贸易战导致他在中国的这个美国特色生意成了“很头疼,很麻烦”的事。并且他承认,这种痛苦还会加剧。
        Fourteen months into their trade war, the United States and China — plus the workers, consumers, factory owners and more who depend on commerce between the two nations — are about to face their biggest test yet.        贸易战进行到第14个月,美国和中国——加上工人、消费者、工厂主以及依靠两国之间商业往来的许多人——即将面临他们最大的考验。
        On Sunday, the United States began charging a 15 percent tax on more than $100 billion worth of Chinese goods, Mr. Xu’s boots included. This came in addition to the 25 percent tariffs President Trump had already imposed on $250 billion on everything from cars to aircraft parts from China. Those levies are going up to 30 percent in October.        周日,美国开始对价值1000多亿美元的中国商品加征15%的关税,徐的靴子也包含在内。这是在特朗普总统对从汽车到飞机零件等所有中国商品已经征收的25%的关税基础上征收的。10月份,这些征税将提高至30%。
        Beijing retaliated with increased tariffs of its own on Sunday. Both governments have more scheduled for December.        北京周日调高了自身关税予以报复。两国政府都已经制定在12月加征更多关税的计划。
        The two sides, in other words, have settled in for a fight that could last beyond next year’s American elections, no matter how punishing the consequences might be.        换言之,双方已准备好迎接一场可能持续至明年美国大选结束后的战斗,无论后果有多严重。
        Mr. Trump believes the American economy is stronger than China’s, despite hints of a coming recession in the United States, and so Beijing will have to give in.        特朗普认为美国经济比中国经济强大——尽管有迹象表明美国经济即将进入衰退,因此北京必须让步。
        China’s leaders are betting that the Chinese economy, while slowing, is healthy enough to outlast Mr. Trump. They believe their own efforts to curb China’s excessive lending, not the trade war, are holding the economy back, and if needed, they could suspend recent limits on debt to juice the economy again.        中国领导人的判断是,中国经济虽然在放缓,但很健康,足以撑过特朗普的任期。他们认为阻碍经济发展的,是自身遏制中国过度借贷的措施,而非贸易战;并且如有必要,它可以暂缓实施近来的债务限制以重振经济。
        Chinese leaders are also increasingly pessimistic that they can reach a comprehensive deal with Mr. Trump, given his erratic negotiating style and new threats issued just a week ago.        鉴于特朗普不稳定的谈判风格和一周前才发布的新威胁,对于和特朗普达成全面协议一事,中国领导人也越来越悲观。
        Beijing, therefore, is showing no sign of backing down. It has taken steps to blunt the trade war’s impact on consumers and companies, and hinted that it could use the value of its currency as a weapon to strike back, which could shake markets if it follows through.        因此,北京没有流露出任何让步的迹象。它已采取措施削弱贸易战对消费者和企业的影响,并暗示可使用人民币币值作为反击的武器,如果该计划得以实施,可能会撼动市场。
        Should the trade war seriously damage the Chinese economy, however, the world would lose its biggest single driver of economic growth in recent years. A lengthy tariff conflict might also force even more American companies to look for other places to set up their factories. That could be a complicated and expensive process that dents their productivity for years to come.        但如果贸易战给中国经济造成严重损失,那么全世界将失去近年来经济增长的第一引擎。长期的关税冲突还可能会迫使更多美国企业寻找其他地方建厂。这会是一个在未来数年内削弱他们生产力的复杂且代价高昂的过程。
        Both sides are considering ways to help businesses endure the fight. Mr. Trump has boosted aid to farmers and contemplated tax cuts. But thanks to the Chinese government’s tight control over the economy, Beijing has more options, including dramatic steps such as flooding the financial system with money or ramping up government spending.        双方都在考虑通过什么方式帮助企业渡过难关。特朗普增加了对农民的援助并考虑过减税。但由于中国政府牢牢控制着经济,北京拥有更多选项,包括给金融体系大量注资或增加政府支出这类重大举措。
        On Tuesday, the central government announced measures aimed at empowering the country’s shoppers, including discounts for appliance purchases and a weakening of traffic-related restrictions on the sale of new cars. It is trying to find new markets for China’s factories, including by trying to reach a trade deal covering most of eastern and southern Asia before November.        上周二,中国的中央政府公布了旨在增强国民购买力的措施,包括家电采购折扣和放宽关税相关的新车销售限制。中国政府正设法为中国的工厂寻找新市场,包括力求在11月前达成一项覆盖多数东亚和南亚国家的贸易协议。
        The government has also been trying to directly help small businesses slammed by both the trade war, which has hurt exports to the United States, and the debt reduction campaign, which has pinched lending. In May, Zhejiang Province in eastern China unveiled a $30 billion plan to cut taxes and regulatory costs for small businesses.        政府还一直在设法直接帮助受到影响对美国出口的贸易战,以及收紧借贷的债务削减行动双重打击的小企业。5月份,中国东部的浙江省出台了300亿美元的计划,旨在降低小企业税收和监管成本。
        Still, signs of strain are not hard to find. In the city of Huzhou, in Zhejiang, local officials in December surveying the impact of the trade war found a company called Tianzhen Bamboo Flooring that was laying off workers and trying to open new markets in Europe and Canada. A person at the company who answered the phone this week as Ms. Zhang confirmed that some workers were cut, and that Tianzhen had not had much luck with new markets so far.        但紧张迹象仍不难发现。在浙江省湖州市,当地官员12月份在调查贸易战的影响时,发现一家名为天振竹木开发有限公司的企业在裁员,并尝试在欧洲和加拿大开辟新市场。本周,该公司一名自称姓张的女士在接听电话时证实,一些员工已被裁掉,天振目前在开拓新市场方面运气不佳。
        Whether China’s strategy works will depend a lot on how businesspeople like Mr. Xu weather the coming months.        中国的策略是否奏效,将取决于布鲁斯·徐这样的商人如何经受未来数月的考验。
        Mr. Xu, 50, is the general manager at Yong Du Shoes, which produces 800,000 to a million pairs of cowboy boots a year. Pretty much all of them are sold to the United States.        现年50岁的布鲁斯·徐是永都鞋业的总经理,该公司每年生产80万至100万双牛仔靴。基本上所有靴子都销往美国。
        The company has around 700 workers in Dongguan, an industrial city near Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Mr. Trump’s tariffs are only one of many rising costs, including labor.        公司在靠近深圳和香港的工业城市东莞有约700名工人。特朗普的关税只是劳动力等多种不断上涨的成本中的一项。
        “Year after year after year after year, our profits have become thinner and thinner,” said Phillip Lee, 62, a consultant for Yong Du.        “每一年每一年每一年每一年,利润是越来越薄越来越薄,”62岁的永都顾问菲利普·李(Phillip Lee)说。
        Even the weakening Chinese currency is a temporary balm, Mr. Lee said. The dollars that Yong Du earns from its American partners are now worth more in Chinese currency than they were before. But when the exchange rate shifts, overseas buyers quickly come asking to renegotiate their pricing agreements, Mr. Lee said.        李说,即使人民币走弱也只是一种暂时的安慰。永都从其美国合作伙伴那里赚取的美元,现在以人民币计价值比以前更高。但李说,当汇率发生变化时,海外买家很快就会要求重新谈判价格协议。
        “Customers are very fast,” he said. “They figure it out very quickly.”        “客人很快,”他说。“很快就知道。”
        That has left Yong Du with only a few unappealing options.        这让永都只剩下几个不理想的选择。
        Laying off workers or trimming salaries would help. But with inflation in China already eating away at earnings, Mr. Lee said he had not been able to bring himself to that.        裁员或减薪会有些用处。但菲利普·李说,由于中国的通货膨胀已经侵蚀了收益,他暂时还没法那样做。
        The company could try to sell its boots in Europe, but who would buy them? “There isn’t that culture around cowboy boots in other countries,” Mr. Xu said.        公司可以尝试在欧洲销售靴子,但是谁会买呢?“那些牛仔靴,其他国家没这种文化,”徐说。
        Yong Du could try producing more of its shoes outside of China — in Southeast Asia, for instance. Mr. Lee has helped run factories in Vietnam before, though, and the language barrier caused major problems. “Vietnam isn’t so simple,” he said.        永都可以尝试在中国以外的地区生产更多鞋子,比如东南亚。不过,李以前曾经参与在越南办厂,语言障碍造成了一些重大问题。“越南没有那么简单啊,”他说。
        It would also be tough, Mr. Lee said, to find enough workers in Southeast Asia who are up to snuff. Many of the company’s staff in Dongguan have more than a decade of shoemaking experience, he said.        李说,要在东南亚找到足够的合格工人也很困难。他说,该公司在东莞的许多员工都有超过10年的制鞋经验。
        Mostly, therefore, Yong Du Shoes will have to wait.        因此,大体来说,永都鞋业不得不等待。
        In half a year or so, when the company’s American partners release new models of boots, they might be able charge higher prices to help offset the tariffs, Mr. Lee said. Even then, the companies will not likely want to raise prices on older models that are consistently strong sellers.        李说,大约半年后,当公司的美国合作伙伴发布新款靴子时,他们也许可以报更高的价格,以帮助抵消关税。即便如此,这些公司也不太可能愿意提高销量一直强劲的老款靴子的价格。
        Mr. Lee said that Yong Du and its American partners had helped each other through tough times before. “We’ve worked together long enough that everybody is very familiar with each other,” he said.        李说,永都和它的美国合作伙伴以前曾相互帮助,度过艰难时期。“我们就是已经做到大家都很熟了,”他说。
        “It’s only because this problem came up all of a sudden that we’re all having a hard time dealing with it,” Mr. Xu said.        “这个就是因为一下子出现这个问题,大家接受不了,”徐说。
        Every year, Mr. Xu said, he travels to the United States to see customers. These visits have given him some sense of American cowboy culture, even if the whole thing still puzzles him somewhat.        徐说,他每年都会去美国拜访客户。这让他找到了一点美国牛仔文化的感觉,尽管整体上仍然让他有些困惑。
        “It’s very strange,” he said, smiling. “They have horse-riding competitions and bull-riding competitions. People of all kinds take part. Foreigners’ ways of thinking can be very strange.”        “很奇怪,”他笑着说。“他们会有骑马比赛,还有骑牛比赛,什么人都有。老外他们那种思想是很奇怪。”
                
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