China Seeks Financial Decoupling on Its Own Terms

The US and EU should ensure that democratic capital does not follow
December 17, 2021 Updated: December 22, 2021

News Analysis

The rising competition between the United States and China is creating so much tension on Wall Street that Chinese companies listed in the United States are starting to retreat to Shanghai and Hong Kong rather than surrender their data to U.S. regulators.

In early 2021, the New York Stock Exchange delisted China Telecom, China Mobile, and China Unicom in compliance with a U.S. executive order that banned U.S. investment in Chinese military-linked firms.

But some Chinese companies are leaving the United States, or not listing in America, at the direction of the regime in Beijing. The latter hopes to keep its corporate data secret from U.S. regulators and investors, and, in the long term, to move finance to Shanghai and Hong Kong, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has more control,  from New York, London, and Tokyo.

The process is already well underway. A Dec. 15 report noted that David Loevinger of the TCW Group predicts that most Chinese companies listed in the United States will delist and “gravitate back to Hong Kong or Shanghai” by 2024.

Alibaba, JD.com, Baidu, NetEase, and Weibo have already dual-listed in Hong Kong.

“I think for a lot of Chinese companies listed in U.S. markets, it’s essentially game over,” Loevinger told CNBC. “This is an issue that’s been hanging out there for 20 years.”

Didi, the Chinese ride-hailing company, went public in New York for $4.4 billion in June, and within six months announced plans to delist and move to Hong Kong. Company shares dropped precipitously. Didi supposedly did so due to pressure from Chinese regulators over concerns about U.S. access to Didi’s data, including personal information about Didi customers in China.

But, in the process, it got away with what should be considered highway robbery.

American flag-logo Didi Global Inc.
An American flag is pictured in front of the logo for Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Global Inc. during the IPO on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) floor in New York on June 30, 2021. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Loevinger said: “I just don’t think China’s government is going to allow U.S. regulators to have unfettered access to internal auditing documents of Chinese companies. And if U.S. regulators can’t get access to those documents, then they can’t protect U.S. markets from fraud.”

The moves could have a positive effect—due to stricter U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requirements and a new cautionary signal to investors—of protecting them against Chinese companies that refuse to reveal the financial data that all other companies are required to disclose according to SEC reporting requirements.

Chinese company removals to China would discourage U.S. and other investors from capitalizing Chinese companies that will empower a country that is self-admittedly seeking to expand its dictatorial powers into one of global hegemony.

But the danger is that some U.S. and international investors will follow Chinese companies, and their outsized and possibly Ponzi-ish returns, to Hong Kong and Beijing.

The response of The New York Times to the Didi delisting was that “American investors will still have little trouble handing over their money to Chinese companies, but it will have to be on China’s terms.”

Once investments are in China-listed shares, the CCP could more easily capture them through capital controls such as reinvestment requirements that ensure that profits aren’t repatriated outside of China.

The transparency risk for investors in China will stay high, since Chinese companies will continue to not disclose their financial details. And the authority of the U.S. government—in particular the SEC—will be undermined because Beijing will have again successfully refused to play by the rules.

Captured capital will deprive the United States and allies of taxes, revenues, and investors, who will in turn become increasingly beholden—politically as well as economically—to Beijing. These investors will then be useful conduits for political influence in Washington, Brussels, and Tokyo in the service of CCP interests globally.

The question that arises—due to American and allied investors who, true to type, are chasing returns in China with little if any regard for their national security implications—is whether laws should be strengthened against investing in adversaries such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

The question also arises as to what should be done about the approximately $2.3 trillion in institutional and state pension fund investments in China. Is it possible to require investors to liquidate these positions and invest elsewhere? Will Beijing make this impossible through capital controls? If so, can U.S. and allied courts make investors whole by attaching Chinese assets internationally?

These are all policy questions that the United States and allies must take more seriously. The longer we wait, the more we invest in communist China, increasingly to the point where it becomes too big to fail. At that point, America—and with it, democracy globally—will have lost.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).