American Ethnologist

Accidents of equity and the aesthetics of Chinese offshore incorporation

Authors


ABSTRACT

The British Virgin Islands is second only to Hong Kong as a source for foreign investment into China. Over the past two decades or so, Chinese entrepreneurs have demonstrated a preference for incorporating in the offshore finance centers of the Caribbean. Chinese offshore structures are different from earlier uses of the offshore in their unique and seemingly transparent aesthetic form. We show how equity—a legal argument and tradition that moderates the letter of the law—and these structures mutually engage one another through spatiotemporal reference and framing. We argue that this engagement is accidental, a coincidence of aesthetic form rather than an emergent phenomenon of any larger process or the product of a plan. It is also not a contingent articulation of compatible elements from the corporate and legal domains. In exploring the aesthetics of Chinese offshore incorporation and court cases that invoke equity, we argue that the accidental discovery of equity can reorient certain analytical conceits about capital and how we can know it.

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