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China vows further curbs on disorderly expansion by tech firms

China will take further steps to rein in internet companies, a senior cyberspace official said, citing the shared economy, online health care and smart delivery as areas of concern.

Vice Minister Sheng Ronghua told the World Internet Conference on Monday that curbing monopolistic behavior and the “disorderly expansion of capital” were top priorities for the Cyberspace Administration of China. Sheng also listed self-driving vehicles and platform economies as areas that required stronger regulation.

“We need to build a solid legal foundation for anti-monopoly efforts and prevent disordered expansion of capital,” Sheng said at the annual conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province. “A sound data-management and trading mechanism will also be built.”

Sheng’s comments suggest that the effort could extend to new firms. Regulation of shared economy or smart delivery applications could impact Meituan, for instance, while Baidu Inc. has worked on autonomous driving and Alibaba Health Information Technology Ltd. and JD Health International Inc. do business in the online health sector.

The Wuzhen conference was started by President Xi Jinping to showcase the globalization of China’s digital sector, and its opening Sunday was joined by Elon Musk and the chief executive officers of Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Nokia Oyj. In comments conveyed to the event by Vice Premier Liu He, Xi said China would work with all countries to create a vibrant digital economy and improve regulation.

Since its first public use by the Politburo in December, the phrase “disorderly expansion of capital” has expanded from a criticism of platform companies to an explanation for actions against technology moguls, celebrities and private tutors. Sheng’s latest remarks could temper optimism that Xi is looking to ease his market-roiling crackdowns after declaring “initial results” last month in the efforts to bring order to such capital.

China has ramped up the campaign with a series of monopoly probes into internet companies, a record fine for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and new demands on leading digital firms like Tencent Holdings Ltd. The country is pushing its tech titans to share their data troves, open up their platforms to greater competition and support opportunities for smaller businesses.

“We are looking to improve the regulations on shared economy and platform economy to safeguard their healthy growth,” Sheng said. “We are also looking to set up frames for the management of areas in autonomous driving, online health care and smart delivery.” Bloomberg


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