Variable interest entity, offshore domesticated foreign finance, and the political economy of China's internet firms: The case of Alibaba




Zhao, Can

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Social Sciences


This article aims to show how the globalized securities market in general and a transnational legal business structure named variable interest entity (VIE) in particular has challenged our conventional understanding of “foreignness” as a geographical concept in cross-border capital flow and ushers in a new type of foreign investment which I call “offshore domesticated foreign finance” (ODFF). By performing a case study on Alibaba—one of the world’s leading VIE-structured Internet companies—and mapping out the company’s fund-raising history and personnel appointment mechanism with the help of company releases and news reports, this article shows how ODFF makes a company de jure foreign-incorporated and -owned but de facto China-based and Chinese-controlled. This article also demonstrates that ODFF’s primary function is to allow China-based Internet firms to tap into international financial markets while helping Chinese entrepreneurs and managers—despite their minority shareholdings—to control the company. These findings shed light on how financial globalization has transformed the cross-border capital movement and corporate governance.



globalization, capitalism, internet company, cross-border capital flow, foreign investment, corporate finance, corporate governance, Alibaba, variable interest entity (VIE)


Zhao, C. (2022). “Variable interest entity, offshore domesticated foreign finance, and the political economy of China’s internet firms: The case of Alibaba.” Social Sciences, 11(3), 99.