China’s appointment of a veteran supervisor of the state-asset regulator to take the helm at the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) over the weekend could foster rising antitrust oversight, a Chinese analyst said on Sunday.
The move came as China is mulling intensified antitrust campaign in 2019.
Antitrust efforts will focus on pharmaceuticals, automobiles, semiconductors, and restrictive trade behaviors such as manipulating procurement by multinationals in China to squeeze their competitors, a report of the Economic Information Daily reported over the weekend.
Xiao Yaqing, 60, and formerly director of China’s State-Owned Asset Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), has been appointed head of the SAMR, Chinese media reported on Saturday.
An observer who requested anonymity said that Xiao, who has had experience in running pilot programs to supervising the country’s state assets worth more than $8.4 trillion, will likely to crack down on monopolistic behavior following the principle of competitive neutrality.
Xiao has for years worked in China’s state-asset system and with state-owned enterprises in several provinces.
He was formerly the president of the Aluminum Corp of China, grabbing headlines by completing a stake buy in global mining giant Rio Tinto. He also held senior posts in the State Council, China’s cabinet, for seven years.
Since being appointed head of the SASAC in 2016, Xiao oversaw pilot state-asset reforms, improving state-sector profitability and campaigns to shred overcapacity in some state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
Xiao’s appointment came after the incumbent director of the SAMR, Zhang Mao, reached the mandatory retirement age of 65. It also came at a time when a trade war with the US, the world’s largest economy, is escalating.
The SAMR was formed in March 2018 after a wide-ranging overhaul of government departments.
“The most important job for the SAMR is regulatory oversight and enforcement based on enhancing China’s anti-monopoly law,” a source told the Global Times on Sunday.
Under the principle of competitive neutrality, SOEs, private-sector companies and foreign companies in China stand a fair chance in front of the law and its implementation, the person said.
The SAMR is more powerful than its predecessors but is in the process of configuring the broad boundaries of its power and amid a consolidation process by its forming entities.
Chinese regulators opened investigations into several foreign memory chipmakers including US-based Micron following a surge in market prices in 2018, and an official of the SAMR said that important progress was made in the probes in November 2018.