China cracks down on big tech companies with new anti-monopoly measures

New rules ban e-commerce sites from forcing sellers to use their services.

China is clamping down on big tech conglomerates by tightening its anti-monopoly guidelines for internet and digital payment services. The new rules effectively block companies from forcing sellers to choose between the leading online players, a common practice in the country, reports Reuters.

The guidelines are aimed at Chinese heavyweights including e-commerce providers such as Alibaba Group’s Taobao and and mobile payment services like Ant Group’s Alipay or Tencent’s WeChat Pay. According to the country’s competition watchdog, the crackdown follows growing reports of anti-monopoly behavior online, which sees China grappling with similar issues to the U.S. around the unchecked growth of big tech.

The regulator will also stop companies from price fixing, restricting rivals, and quietly using their data and algorithm perks to exploit the market. Ultimately, the plan is to “stop monopolistic behaviours in the platform economy and protect fair competition in the market,” the State Administration for Market Regulation states on its website.

The rules cement a draft law issued in November and build on the regulator’s broader scrutiny of the tech sector. China’s policy reversal towards local tech giants gained notoriety in recent months when it ordered billionaire Jack Ma to scale back expansion plans for an affiliate company. Ma’s Alibaba subsidiary Ant Group was told in December to reign in its ambitions to expand beyond payments into lending, insurance and wealth management.

Some of the apps in question are already banned in the U.S., via an executive order signed by former President Donald Trump at the height of the trade war against China. India also blocked a total of 59 Chinese apps in the wake of a territorial dispute with China.