“Financiers have the least conscience in the world when it comes to making money,” Han, 55, said in an interview. “By saying that, I would have offended many bankers and financiers, but this is my personal experience.”
The mayor’s misgivings mirror a wider dilemma for leaders in China, where a centuries-old Confucian disdain for the merchant class gave way to outright hostility when the communists seized power in 1949. Han said that Shanghai needs to contain the “animal spirits” that led Western banks to take on too much credit risk, triggering $1.6 trillion in losses.
China’s government in April gave Shanghai until 2020 to become a global finance hub, a role played by Hong Kong since Britain handed back the former colony 12 years ago. To get there, China needs to make the currency convertible, bring the legal system in line with international norms and cut taxes that are double those in Hong Kong, Han said.