BEIJING, Oct 13 (Reuters) - China is considering boosting
the status of its antitrust bureau within the market regulatory
agency as it steps up a campaign against anti-competitive
behavior, two people familiar with the matter said.
Urged on by President Xi Jinping, the once low-profile State
Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) has made headlines
this year with a push to root-out and penalize anticompetitive
behavior, particularly in the vast online "platform" economy.
Under a new structure under consideration by the government,
the antitrust bureau would become the National Antimonopoly
Bureau and be elevated to deputy-ministerial status, while
remaining within SAMR, said two people with knowledge of the
The higher ranking would help antitrust investigators gain
resources when examining mergers and acquisitions, the people
said, strengthening their hand as Beijing seeks to rein in the
power of corporate behemoths https://www.reuters.com/world/china/education-bitcoin-chinas-season-regulatory-crackdown-2021-07-27.
The proposed new structure, details of which have not been
reported before, would also bolster SAMR's in-house capability
to conduct research that it has previously had to outsource,
according to the people.
Reuters reported in April that Beijing was planning to bulk
up SAMR's antitrust workforce and delegate case reviewing power
to its local bureaus.
Gan Lin, current deputy minister of SAMR, would lead the
upgraded bureau within SAMR, the people said.
SAMR did not respond to a request for comment on the plans
and Gan could not immediately be reached for comment.
The plan is subject to change and needs final approval of
China's State Council, or cabinet, as well as the National
People's Congress, said the sources, who declined to be named as
they were not authorized to speak with media.
The proposed status upgrade of SAMR's antitrust bureau comes
after Xi in March cited the need to "strengthen antitrust
powers" to rein in corporate giants that play a dominant role in
the country's consumer sector.
Beijing has looked to European antitrust authorities as a
model as it seeks to upgrade its antitrust capabilities, one of
the people said. In August, SAMR's antitrust office said on its
website that it had invited experts from the EU and United
States to hold online courses for Chinese "antitrust talents."
"Compared to other major anti-monopoly enforcement
authorities in the world, the authorities in China currently
have fewer staff, which needs to be changed in the future," Wu
Zhenguo, head of SAMR's anti-monopoly bureau, told industrial
online journal The Antitrust Source in a July interview http://www.samr.gov.cn/xw/zj/202107/t20210707_332370.html.
China has shed what was once a relatively laissez-faire
approach to market regulation of the internet sector in dramatic
fashion this year, including blocking mergers and imposing a
record $2.75 billion fine on e-commerce giant Alibaba Group
Holding for abusing its market position.
This month, it levied a $527 million fine on food delivery
giant Meituan, also for abusing its market dominance.
Beijing has in the past elevated the administrative status
of other regulatory bodies as its governance agenda evolved. The
Ministry of Ecology and Environment was upgraded from a national
bureau to a ministry in 2008, and later revamped with greater
powers during a 2018 governmental overhaul.
($1 = 6.4485 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Cheng Leng, Yingzhi Yang and Tony Munroe; Editing
by Stephen Coates)