Negotiating Positive Non-interventionism: Regulating Hong Kong's Finance Companies, 1976–1986

Since colonial times to the present day, Hong Kong's position as a global financial centre is one of the enduring economic strengths of the territory. This success is often attributed to the distinctive role of the state, coined in the 1970s by the-then financial secretary, Sir Philip Haddon-Cave, as “positive non-interventionism.” The relationship between the market and the state has also been characterized as a form of corporatism, particularly in the financial sector as bankers were able to influence policy. However, closer examination of the behind-the-scenes relations between bankers and the state reveals a much more complex relationship, with the banks seeking protection that the government was not willing to provide. Moreover, the reluctance to regulate financial markets resulted in piecemeal interventions and weak implementation that undermined the stability of this sector and of the economy as a whole. This paper demonstrates the confusion over the concept and practicalities of positive non-interventionism, even for Haddon-Cave, and how the concept evolved towards a policy of “when in doubt, do nothing” during a period of financial instability. Along the way, the paper presents new evidence about the origins of Hong Kong's current banking structure. , 从殖民时期至今, 香港作为全球金融中心, 这一地位一直是该地区保持经济优势的因素之一。这一作用通常被归因于国家独特性, 即香港前财政司司长夏鼎基 (Charles Philip Haddon Cave) 在上世纪 70 年代提出的 “积极不干预政策”。市场与国家之间的关系也被描述为一个形式主义, 特别是在银行家能够影响政策的金融部门。但仔细审视银行家与国家之间的幕后关系能揭示出一种更为复杂的关系, 即银行寻求的保护政府却不愿意提供。此外, 不愿意监管金融市场导致了干预的碎片化和实施力度不够, 这破坏了金融部门和整个经济的稳定。本文分析了积极不干预政策在概念理解和实际操作上的混乱, 甚至包括夏鼎基在内, 以及在在金融动荡时期积极不干预政策内涵如何演变为 “没把握的事就不要做”。同时本文也为香港目前的银行业结构起源提供了新证据。