The new foreign investment law is no longer mentioning the ban on VIE’s like an earlier edition did in 2015. The tool to circumvent Chinese regulations by channeling investments through foreign tax havens is no longer needed, says financial expert Paul Gillis, a professor at Beida University. Controlling capital streams have become more efficient, and a crackdown on VIE’s is no longer needed, he argues at his website.
The new law does not discuss VIEs, and I do not think that portends a coming crackdown. I think it just continues the status quo, where the government turns a blind eye towards the structure. I would also observe that there have been statements that companies with VIEs and control structures will be allowed to issue Chinese Drawing Rights (CDRs) on the new Shanghai Technology Board. That is about as close to official acceptance of VIEs that we are likely to see.
I think Chinese regulators would like to fix the VIE problem, since it makes a mockery of the rule of law, but a workaround has proven elusive. These companies are now a big part of China’s economy, and I find it inconceivable that the government is going to shut them down.
Seven years ago I wrote a summary of VIEs for Forensic Asia that became the most cited work on VIEs. I just updated that article together with Fredrik Oqvist, and GMT Research, successor to Forensic Asia, has distributed it to their subscribers. I will make it available here in a month or two. Our key point is that as VIEs mature they are becoming increasingly unworkable because of the difficulty in moving cash into and out of the VIE.
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