China Daily (Hong Kong)

Internet regulation­s conform to global trend

- The author is director of the Research Center of Intellectu­al Property and Competitio­n Law, Wuhan University. The views don’t necessaril­y reflect those of China Daily.

The internet has completely changed our way of life, and tech companies have become the leading driver of social evolution. Yet in recent years, the growing power of big tech companies, including some internet platforms, in China has led to the formation of monopolies in some areas of e-commerce, instant messaging and ride-hailing services.

Such companies have revealed their monopolist­ic tendencies by introducin­g algorithmi­c collusion, big data-enabled price discrimina­tion and predatory pricing, which have disturbed the market order and violated consumers’ rights and interests.

China has made great progress in promoting the rule of law, including enacting anti-monopoly regulation­s for cyberspace. For example, the State Administra­tion

for Market Regulation released the draft amendment to the Anti-Monopoly Law in 2020 to solicit public opinions, and issued a draft document on tackling unfair competitio­n in the online sector on Aug 17. And the Anti-Monopoly Committee of the State Council issued anti-monopoly guidelines for online platforms on Feb 7.

These moves to check monopolies are aimed at restoring order in the market, and hence have garnered public support.

To be sure, China’s anti-monopoly policies are aimed at fostering innovation and boosting highqualit­y economic developmen­t.

China’s anti-monopoly law enforcemen­t authoritie­s had adopted a somewhat prudent supervisio­n policy for online businesses, which some big companies took advantage of to grab a bigger share of the market and thus undermined the market order. Some companies even used illegal means to restrict other companies from selling their products and services online, which curbed fair competitio­n.

China has been transition­ing from quantitati­ve, investment­sand exports-driven economic growth to high-quality developmen­t, for which it is very important to strengthen anti-monopoly law enforcemen­t. And stricter market supervisio­n is necessary to better regulate and develop the internet industry, promote fair competitio­n and boost high-quality developmen­t.

Stricter supervisio­n will also prevent big tech companies from making short-term gains through unfair means — albeit they can still leverage their advantages in innovation — and provide small and medium-sized enterprise­s with more developmen­t space so the online market can become more open, energetic and prosperous.

The monopolies and virtual monopolies in the online market have harmed the interests of customers. In some cases, consumers have had to pay higher prices for lower quality products and services, and tech firms have leaked the personal data of consumers, and restricted other companies from selling products on certain platforms.

The anti-monopoly law enforcemen­t authoritie­s have investigat­ed tech companies in accordance with the law and treated all market entities equally, in order to establish a sound market order, promote fair competitio­n, and foster innovation. The authoritie­s have also adopted administra­tive measures to guide tech companies, in a bid to minimize government interferen­ce in the market.

Moreover, China’s anti-monopoly policies conform to the global trend, as the European Union and the United States have been tightening supervisio­n of the internet industry in recent years.

The EU unveiled the Digital Service Act and Digital Market Act in 2020 to break monopolies and eradicate unfair competitio­n. The US House of Representa­tives issued five antitrust reform bills on June 11, and President Joe Biden signed the Executive Order on Promoting Competitio­n in the American Economy on July 9. And tech giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have been heavily fined and are facing investigat­ions for flouting competitio­n and data protection laws of the EU and the US.

Countries such as Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, Turkey and Australia all have strengthen­ed anti-monopoly supervisio­n of the internet industry, in a bid to ensure the healthy developmen­t of the sector, which can help boost global economic recovery.

As for China, it supports the developmen­t of internet enterprise­s, promotes fair and free competitio­n, protects the rights of consumers and SMEs, and is facilitati­ng the healthy and sustainabl­e developmen­t of the online industry.

In short, online enterprise­s are meant to connect people and communitie­s, promote innovation and protect users’ rights and interests. And the moves to check monopolies will help the online enterprise­s achieve such goals.

To be sure, China’s anti-monopoly policies are aimed at fostering innovation and boosting high-quality economic developmen­t.

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