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In July 2022, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) completed its probe into Didi Chuxing and imposed a USD 1.2 billion fine on the country’s leading ride-hailing giant. The case had been launched a year earlier, when the CAC conducted a surprise cybersecurity inspection of Didi just two days after the firm’s initial public offering in New York.   

How Antitrust Facilitates China’s Goal to Achieve Technological Self-Sufficiency

Centre for International Governance Innovation, Jun 27, 2022

This essay is part of The Four Domains of Global Platform Governance, an essay series that examines platform governance from four distinct policy angles: content, data, competition and infrastructure. Ant Group’s attempted initial public offering (IPO) in 2020 was to be the biggest in world history. If it had succeeded, 18 Chinese individuals would have become billionaires overnight. Unfortunately for Ant, Chinese regulators put the brakes on the deal just two days before it was to go ahead (Yang and Wei 2020). Ant never became the biggest IPO in Chinese history, while Alibaba (Ant’s affiliated company) would, just a few months later, become the recipient of the biggest fine ever issued by Chinese antitrust authorities. The months leading up to that US$2.8 billion1 fine were characterized by a fierce antitrust campaign aimed at China’s tech giants, all of whom have since faced some level of regulatory scrutiny over their business practices.

Is China’s Economic Miracle Over?

Project Syndicate, Jun 2, 2022

Whether the Chinese economy returns to health after the negative shock of zero-COVID policies is important not only for the country’s consumers and firms and for the global economy. A severe and prolonged downturn could also damage President Xi Jinping’s hopes of securing a third term in office later this year, and undermine the Communist Party of China’s legitimacy. In this Big Question, we ask George Magnus, Eswar Prasad, Nancy Qian, and Angela Huyue Zhang whether Chinese policymakers will be able to engineer a strong economic rebound.

China’s Golden Tech Grab

Project Syndicate, May 19, 2022

HONG KONG – Hopes are rising that China’s embattled tech giants will finally get a reprieve from the severe legal and regulatory crackdown that has wiped out over $1.5 trillion of their shares’ value. Amid mounting challenges to economic growth, some Chinese government officials have signaled a possible shift to a new strategy: the acquisition of a 1% equity stake – or a so-called golden share – in major tech firms. But will this approach really brighten the outlook for China’s tech industry?

Last year, China made a quantum leap in data regulation by adopting two sets of national laws on data security and personal information protection. It is now in the process of churning out more guidelines to implement these ambitious new codes. In contrast with the United States' seeming hesitance when it 

comes to introducing an overarching data law, China's legislative efforts struck many observers as bold and decisive. In fact, by introducing sweeping new measures to oversee algorithms and recommendations, China even appears one step ahead of the European Union.

Angela Huyue Zhang Says More…

Project Syndicate, Feb 1, 2022

This week in Say More, PS talks with Angela Huyue Zhang, Director of the Center for Chinese Law at the University of Hong Kong and the author of Chinese Antitrust Exceptionalism: How the Rise of China Challenges Global Regulation. 

Project Syndicate: Last November, you wrote that new draft guidelines for tech platforms – especially the requirement that users opt in to personalization – could cause significant harm to tech companies. But to what extent might the new guidelines benefit consumers? The rules coming into force on March 1 also target companies that use algorithm-based recommendations in their services but include only an opt-out requirement. Does that strike a better balance between the interests of consumers and tech companies?

Angela Huyue Zhang: My guess is that the opt-out requirement won’t have much of an impact on Chinese tech companies’ business operations. Most Chinese consumers probably won’t opt out from recommendation and personalization services, either because they simply don’t bother to take the extra step or because they don’t realize it is an option. The opt-in requirement, however, could have a drastic and disruptive impact on platform businesses.

China's Tech Regulators Strike Again

Project Syndicate, Nov 24, 2021

When Apple began asking iPhone users whether they wanted to opt out of data tracking, 84% said yes – dealing a major blow to platforms whose business models depend on the collection and sale of user data. This is an ominous sign for Chinese tech companies, which now face the prospect of much tougher data regulations.

On Oct. 15, the People’s Bank of China assured investors that China would be able to ring-fence the risks that China Evergrande Group’s collapse posed to the financial system. Representatives from the central bank noted that only one-third of the firm’s liabilities were owed to financial institutions, and that the exposure of individual banks was relatively small.

Two emerging threats to the Chinese economy have alarmed global investors. The first is the Evergrande debt crisis, which has sent shock waves across financial markets and left investors feeling worried that another Lehman moment could be imminent. The second is the power shortage crisis in northeast China 

that has quickly spread to 20 Chinese provinces and will probably worsen during the winter. The power crunch is not only affecting the daily lives of a vast Chinese population but is also crippling manufacturing and will slow China's economic growth this year.

Data Privacy Chinese-Style

Project Syndicate, Sep 6, 2021

China’s new Personal Information Protection Law represents an important first step toward protecting the privacy of Chinese citizens, and it will undoubtedly increase the compliance burden for major tech firms. But the PIPL may turn out to be far weaker than it appears.

When Jean Liu, the president of Didi Chuxing, was asked during an interview with Bloomberg Television why she had given up the Goldman Sachs managing director's role to join the ride-hailing giant, her reply was that she saw Didi's potential to make a "huge impact."

Looming regulatory challenges are clouding the future of Big Tech the world over. In China, Alibaba received a record fine of $2.8 billion for abusing its dominant position in e-retailing business last month.

The e-commerce giant was reportedly asked to divest media assets from its vast business empire, even though this wasn’t included in the penalty decision and there is actually no legal basis under Chinese antitrust law to request the firm to do so.

What Does Beijing Achieve from Regulating Its Big Tech?

USALI Perspective, Vol. 1, Number 20, April 20, 2021

On April 10, China’s antitrust regulator slapped Alibaba with a record fine of $2.8 billion for exclusionary business practices.  Since then, other Chinese tech firms have fallen in line by vowing to comply with

government regulation.  Meanwhile, Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba, is facing pressure from Chinese financial regulators to revamp its business structure in a way that may cut its valuation by two-thirds.

Ever since Ant Group's initial public offering debacle, China's fintech sector has found itself in the crosshairs of regulators.  In late January, the People's Bank of China proposed new guidelines for nonbank

payment institutions, threatening to break up large digital payment platforms. While the PBOC has a clear mandate to regulate payment platforms, its latest antitrust initiative appears to be driven by the vested interests of Chinese state banks to gain bargaining leverage against Ant and other fintech businesses.

China’s Regulatory War on Ant

Project Syndicate, Mar 12, 2021

Chinese fintech conglomerate Ant Group has quickly grown into an internet titan, owing not only to regulatory lag but also to its agile adaptation to rule changes. But recent strong official criticism of the firm, coming on top of the suspension of its IPO, suggests that the country's regulators have finally caught up.

The Ant Group is planning a major revamp in response to pressure from Chinese financial regulators, just three months after Jack Ma’s outspoken remarks against them. New antitrust rules concerning tech firms went into effect on Sunday. While Ma’s critical speech may have been the tipping point for the government to rein in Big Tech, there have been long-standing economic, social, and industrial policy issues that merit the government’s action. In fact, Beijing’s recent efforts to strengthen antitrust regulation in the tech sector are motivated by a larger goal: to become a technology superpower and achieve self-sufficiency so that China no longer needs to rely on the West.

Why Is China Cracking Down on Alibaba? 

Project Syndicate, Feb 2, 2021

The Chinese authorities' antitrust action against the e-commerce giant appears arbitrary. The perception that the same business practices are treated in drastically different ways when policy priorities shift will not bolster investor confidence in China’s thriving internet firms. HONG KONG – Since the Chinese authorities suddenly halted fintech conglomerate Ant Group’s planned initial public offering in autumn 2020, its parent company, e-commerce king Alibaba, has been facing harsh regulatory scrutiny. On Christmas Eve, China’s antitrust authority announced that it was investigating the firm’s exclusive business practices. And Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, recently eased concerns regarding his fate by appearing in public for the first time since last October, when he delivered a speech criticizing financial regulation in China.

The United States and China are now locked in a dangerous legal war. On Jan. 9, China's Ministry of Commerce issued new rules to block its companies and citizens from having to comply with "unjustified"

foreign laws and measures in an attempt to counter increasingly aggressive U.S. sanctions against Chinese businesses and individuals. The purpose of this blocking statute, similar to other countermeasures such as the "unreliable entity list" that China implemented last year, is more bark than bite. It is hardly a surprise that China has adopted such a law. A long list of countries have implemented measures designed to block the applications of U.S. sanctions within their jurisdictions, including some of America's closest allies such as Canada and the United Kingdom. What is more surprising, however, is that it has taken China so long to react.

The Christmas Eve announcement by China's State Administration of Market Regulation that it would investigate Alibaba Group Holding for monopolistic tactics wiped over $100 billion from the company's 

market value within just a day. The strong reaction reflected investor concern over Alibaba's future prospects amid continuing fallout from a controversial speech by founder Jack Ma attacking financial regulators as well as a series of recent declarations from the authorities about reining in the country's powerful internet platforms. 

In China, Behave or Face a Campaign 

Bloomberg, January 7, 2021

Staffing and new laws aren’t yet up to speed with the country’s business growth. To cope, antitrust regulators turn to time-honored Communist party strategies for keeping things in line. With the debacle of Ant Group Co.’s initial public offering, we’ve witnessed a flurry of legislative and enforcement activities aimed at tightening antitrust regulation within the Chinese tech sector. This massive campaign, however, is hardly a new phenomenon in Chinese law.  The roots of campaign-style law enforcement can be traced back to the revolutionary period of the Chinese Communist Party, which often needed to rely on mass movements in the absence of state institutions. 

The US Commerce Department recently announced a measure that will ban Chinese telecoms giant

Huawei and its suppliers from using US-made machinery and software to design or produce chips without obtaining a US licence. Many in China perceive this move as aimed at strangling Huawei to maintain American technological hegemony.

A flurry of complaints have been filed against China in US federal courts seeking enormous damages

caused by China’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak. These include class actions filed on behalf of individuals and businesses from at least five different states, as well as a lawsuit by the state attorney general from Missouri, while Mississippi has also said it will file a case.

The China Inc. Illusion 

NIKKEI ASIA, November 24, 2016

Investments by Chinese state-owned enterprises in Europe have run into muddy waters recently. 

Don't Panic, China is not Buying the World 

NIKKEI ASIA, January 29, 2015

China ended 2014 as a net capital exporter, according to government data. Though a first, this should come as no surprise. 

Who is Guarding China's Trust Busters

NIKKEI ASIA, August 26, 2014

The National Development and Reform Commission, China's forceful economic planner and industrial regulator, has recently grabbed headlines at home and abroad as an aggressive antitrust enforcer.