By Ma Qian. Xinhua News Agency, Jan. 7, 2021. Complete text:
Beijing – The fate of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma has recently drawn extensive media attention and speculation in the Western world following Beijing’s announcement of an investigation into the company’s monopolistic practices.
To set the record straight, the anti-trust probe launched late last year is certainly not designed to thwart the tech company. It reflects Beijing’s determined resolution to intensify anti-monopoly compliance by market entities, strengthen the rule of law for the internet industry and ensure a level-playing field, so as to prevent systemic risk for the Chinese economy, particularly the financial sector, in its post-pandemic recovery.
It in no way signals Beijing will cut down its support for private enterprises, but rather, through rules of law, to guide and prompt the country’s large non-public sector so that it will prosper in a healthier and more sustainable way in the long run, thus better contributing to China’s high-quality development drive.
In recent years, some internet companies have been in a unique position to harness the combined strength of data, technology and capital to achieve explosive expansion.
Such a boom without adequate supervision could encourage unfair competition, squeezing out competitors, posing new challenges to traditional retailing industry, as well as small shop owners and vendors, and harming the legitimate rights and interests of consumers. If left unattended, social stability could also be in jeopardy.
Worse still, disorderly expansion beyond laws and regulations would give birth to commercial oligarch that is “too big to fail” and lead to “winner-takes-it-all” business environment, which will diminish the efficiency of market participants, impede innovation and competition, and retard the growth of relevant industries in the long term.
It was only recently that years of lack of market and financial regulation in Wall Street finally triggered the 2008 global financial meltdown. That utterly excruciating and costly lesson needs to be a lasting reminder.
The Draft Revision of the Anti-Monopoly Law, issued in early 2020, added for the first time the provisions for determining the dominant market position of internet companies.
The Guidelines for Anti-Monopoly in the Platform Economy, which was issued in November 2020 and has completed public consultation, encompasses a set of draft rules that could rein in the monopolistic conduct of the country’s top internet firms.
This year, laws and regulations concerning the identification of platform monopolies, management of data collection and use as well as protection of consumers’ rights and interests will be optimized, according to a statement released after the annual Central Economic Work Conference held in December in Beijing.
Globally, stepping up anti-monopoly has been a common practice. Over the last few years, US tech titans, including Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook, have been frequent targets of regulatory and public scrutiny of the US authorities. From 2017 to 2019, the European Union has imposed $9 billion on Google in competition-related fines.
In recent decades, Jack Ma and his company, along with tens of thousands of private businesses and entrepreneurs, have been the witnesses of and contributors to China’s rapid economic development and social transformation. Their roles in China’s future development will remain equally important, if not more. And Beijing’s regulatory moves on Alibaba and other similar steps are to guarantee that private enterprises can be brought into full play under the law of the land.