The case against Alibaba in China and its wider policy repercussions

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In April 2021, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) imposed a fine of RMB 18.228 billion (nearly EUR 2.4 billion) on Chinese tech giant Alibaba, for abusing its dominance by implementing a scheme coercing traders to sell exclusively on its platform. The penalty is the highest to date for a contravention of the Anti-Monopoly Law (AML), and constitutes the most powerful punch to date in China’s own ‘tech crackdown’. This article focuses on the substantive merits of the decision, and on the impact of the decision on competition policy development in China. It finds that the SAMR has tackled a classic kind of exclusionary abuse largely following international practice, and demonstrating its readiness to address the challenges of the digital economy. The article identifies and discusses the challenges ahead, paying particular attention to the importance of impartiality in enforcement, solid judicial review, and procedural rights.