China Steps Up Investigations Into Antitrust, Mergers


China’s antitrust watchdog is adding new staff and departments amid the latest development in the country’s ongoing battle against monopolies.

As Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday (Oct. 12), the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) will hire more members for its anti-monopoly bureau, and will split that agency into three arms focused on antitrust investigations, market competition and mergers oversight.

Sources told Bloomberg that the SAMR plans to increase the number of antitrust officials from its current level of 40+ to 100, aiming to have a staff of 150 in five years. SAMR didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, the report said.

China has been ramping up its antitrust efforts in the private sector, particularly in digital spaces. SAMR has already levied billions in fines against massive companies like Alibaba Group Holding, which received a $2.8 billion antitrust penalty in April.

In addition, the food delivery platform Meituan is under investigation for alleged anticompetitive behavior. China has also stepped up efforts to slow down mergers and public offerings. Tencent’s merger with Huya and DouYu was halted, as was Ant Group’s initial public offering (IPO).

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for more antitrust enforcement to ensure fair competition and to level rising inequalities.

Read more: China Probes State Banks for ‘Political Deviations’

On Monday (Oct. 11), news broke that Xi wanted to take a closer look at the ties between China’s state banks and larger private-sector firms in an effort to clamp down on the influence of capitalism. Xi has ordered inspections of 25 financial institutions (FIs) to determine whether state-owned banks, regulators and investment firms have gotten too close to private companies.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection will visit these 25 institutions, examining their records and asking questions about how deals and decisions involving private firms were handled. These visits will “thoroughly search for any political deviations,”  Zhao Leji, current leader of Xi’s anti-corruption body, said last month.