- GATESTONE INSITITUTE - JULY 19, 2021 - Gordon G. Chang -
VIEs, as they are known, evade Chinese law, which prohibits foreign ownership of Chinese tech companies. Through a series of intricate contractual arrangements, however, these structures effectively give foreigners the economic benefits of ownership.
People believe that if Beijing were to publicly declare a VIE illegal—in other words, expropriate foreign ownership—it would be like setting off a nuclear weapon, shutting off new Chinese companies from foreign equity markets. Therefore, they believe it could not happen. The last-minute cancellation of the Ant Group IPO in Hong Kong and Shanghai last November, however, shows that Xi Jinping is willing to go to great lengths to protect his system.
China's brand of communism, many forget, is inherently hostile to the private sector in general and foreigners in particular. The so-called "reform era"—the three decades following 1978 when Chinese leaders liberalized the Chinese economy and financial system and opened it to the world—is now over....
Xi Jinping believes there is already too much foreign influence in Chinese society, meaning that he would like to limit to the greatest extent possible offshore ownership of China's enterprises. He will, I think, step up a long-running campaign to harass foreign businesses and begin to force offshore investors out of his country. The questionable VIE structure gives Xi the perfect excuse to now expropriate foreign ownership of his country's successful tech businesses.
China's ruler, foreign investors often forget, is willful and will do what he wants. "What Xi Jinping says, Xi Jinping does," Bartiromo correctly pointed out. "And that's what the law is."
"What do investors need to understand, for those investors that are thinking maybe I want to dip my toe in investing in Chinese companies?" asked Maria Bartiromo on July 14, during her Fox Business show, "Mornings with Maria."
The answer is that Beijing is on the road to expropriating the shares held by foreigners in China's tech companies. The complicated financial structures these companies have used to attract foreign investment are questionable under Chinese law and give Xi Jinping, the Chinese ruler, an excuse now to begin a confiscation campaign.
We begin with Beijing's stunning regulatory attacks on DiDi Global. The company's shares started trading on June 30 on the Big Board, where it raised $4.4 billion in an initial public offering. Two days later, China's Cyberspace Administration halted downloads of DiDi Global's popular ride-hailing app, DiDi Chuxing.