context: Efforts to domesticate big tech continue. Apart from official signals, there are signs that Beijing is getting board seats at some of the internet giants as part of the efforts to assert control. Didi specifically rejected claims that the Beijing municipal government is taking a controlling stake of the firm.

Implementing policies for fair competition is essential to the ‘new development pattern’ and the goal of ‘common prosperity’, remarked president Xi Jinping at the Central Committee meeting for Deepening Reform held on 30 Aug 2021. Businesses must obey the Party and serve overall socioeconomic development, per the meeting’s readout, adding that the main objectives are to create room for growth for SMEs and better protect consumers’ rights and interests. A new set of Opinions was passed to foster a ‘comprehensive, multi-level and all-dimensional regulatory system’.

SAMR (State Administration for Market Regulation) has followed a law-based approach in enforcing competition laws among internet platforms, Zhang Gong 张工 SAMR director told the 6 September State Council press conference, noting that SAMR focuses on major monopolistic cases as precedents and deterrents. Government agencies have announced multiple moves over the last few weeks

  • SAMR and other agencies ordered on 2 September car-hailing platforms to comply with car-hailing regulations; most of the orders at car-hailing platforms are not compliant with the law, notes Caixin
  • SAMR announced its investigation into Meituan’s acquisition of Mobike and another market concentration case on 30 August
  • MoHRSS (Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security) and the Supreme People’s Court emphasised on 25 August that ‘996’, whereby workers work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week, is illegal; internet platforms are also responsible for worker injuries among their contractors
  • MoHRSS, SAMR and two other state agencies ordered ten internet platforms on 10 September to rectify their labour rights’ irregularities, following the 22 July Guiding Opinions on platform-related labour rights
  • the Party’s Publicity Department and NAPP (National Press and Publication Administration) had a meeting with gaming-related companies on 8 September, emphasising their role in protecting minors
  • Beijing’s Tongzhou district ordered on 20 August BnB platforms to properly register their listings; the majority of the listings in Beijing municipality have been removed
    • a civil lawsuit concerning the legality of online rentals went to trial on 17 August in Anhui
  • cyberspace regulators issued draft regulations on algorithmic usage on 27 August
  • SAMR announced an amendment to E-commerce Law on 31 August to strengthen IP protection and better regulate platform economies

Internet platforms are also complying with newly emerged laws and regulations. Major moves include

  • privacy rights: Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao announced new measures to encrypt and protect user information
  • labour rights
    • Meituan and Boss Zhipin are the latest firms to drop their Saturday work schedule policies, following similar measures from Tencent and Kuaishou
    • and Didi set up workers’ unions
  • common prosperity: Alibaba, Tencent, Meituan and Pinduoduo announced billions of investment on promoting ‘common prosperity’