China Officially Launches State-Level Anti-monopoly Bureau

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China has officially launched a new state-level government bureau for the enforcement of anti-trust laws, amidst a crack down on anti-competitive conduct by the country’s Internet giants.

The official sign-unveiling ceremony for the new State Anti-Monopoly Bureau (国家反垄断局) (SAMB) was held on 18 November at the offices of the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) in Beijing.

Gan Lin (甘霖), SAMR’s deputy head, will serve as the inaugural head of the new Bureau, which was originally under the auspices of SAMR.

Chinese state-owned media said that the establishment of SAMB marks an “upgrade in the enforcement system,” which “is a necessity for expediting healthy development of the Internet platform economy and the creation of a fair and competitive market environment.”

China has recently stepped up its anti-trust and anti-monopoly efforts, with an especial focus on the country’s huge Internet concerns.

In April of this year e-commerce giant Alibaba was hit with a USD$2.78 billion anti-trust penalty by SAMR, while Ant Group, JD.com, Tencent and ByteDance have all been summoned for anti-trust “regulatory discussions” by Chinese authorities on multiple occasions.

The launch of the new bureau marks a major shift in the enforcement of anti-monopoly law in China. During the decade-long period after the launch of China’s “Anti-Monopoly Law” in 2008, enforcement was mainly in the hands of the Ministry of Commerce, the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

Reforms launched in 2018 sought to “combine the three into one” in order to reduce high coordination costs, and saw the establishment of the Anti-Trust Bureau of SAMR as the specialist agency responsible for anti-trust law enforcement.

According to state-media the establishment of the State Anti-trust Bureau as an independent state-level bureau will lead to “strengthening and improvement of the anti-trust law enforcement system,” as well as “further concentrate anti-trust law enforcement resources.”

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