China’s State Council appoints new supervisor of anti-monopoly regulator
Published: Nov 15, 2021 10:08 PM
Anti-Monopoly Photo: CFP

Anti-Monopoly Photo: CFP

China's State Council, the cabinet, has appointed Gan Lin as the new head of the country's anti-monopoly bureau under the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), according to an announcement posted on the website of Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of China on Monday.

Gan's appointment represents another substantial step by the Chinese government to accelerate the crackdown on market monopolies that stifle free competition, Chinese analysts said.

Gan has been the first deputy director of the SAMR since 2018, in charge of anti-monopoly work.

Since the end of 2020, China has mounted an anti-monopoly fight targeting a range of industries, including the digital economy. Giant internet platform enterprises including Meituan, Alibaba and Tencent were scrutinized and fined by the SAMR for their monopolistic measures.

While raising the status of the anti-monopoly bureau is an affirmation of its previous work, there are other reasons for the upgrade.

For instance, the chairmen of some state-owned enterprises are  at the ministerial level and therefore, anti-monopoly law enforcement requires a relatively high-level organization to do the job well, Yu Xinmiao, an associate professor at the Shanghai International College of Intellectual Property, told the Global Times on Monday.

The bureau remains under the SAMR, but it is relatively independent, experts said, noting that a relatively independent and powerful government department may be more conducive to anti-monopoly work.

The promotion of the anti-monopoly bureau to a higher level comes with the clear trend for China to make the market play a more decisive role in the future, which has already been made clear in government policies and by high-ranking officials, experts said.

For the market to play a decisive role in the distribution of resources, it must first be a competitive market, and an anti-monopoly law is significant and crucial, Yu said.

This is not entirely aimed at domestic Chinese companies, and all foreign-funded companies engaged in business activities in China, or foreign-funded companies whose business activities may affect the domestic market, are within the scope of the possible application of the anti-monopoly law, Yu noted.

"Now we have achieved some success in supervising domestic platform companies, some competition restraints that impact the market by foreign companies also need to be observed," the expert said.

Internet-based companies will definitely be one focus of the future enforcement of the anti-monopoly law, and because of the coronavirus pandemic, pharmaceutical companies could also be scrutinized, experts said.

"Compared with other major anti-monopoly law enforcement agencies in the world, China's government agencies have fewer staff, so anti-monopoly supervision needs to be strengthened with more recruits," Wu Zhenguo, former head of the SAMR's anti-monopoly bureau, said in an interview in May.

The SAMR plans to recruit 33 new staff workers in its 2022 civil servant intake, with 18 designated to enter the anti-monopoly bureau, more than half of the total planned new hires, media reported.