For some months now, big Chinese Internet firms have faced intense scrutiny from regulators not unlike the pressures that large US Internet platforms such as social media giant Facebook, search behemoth Google and e-commerce leader Amazon.com are under in Washington.

The storm began brewing last October when Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba Group Holding and its giant financial technology affiliate Ant Group, attacked the local banking system for its “pawnshop mentality”. Whether Ma knew that a crackdown, on FinTech firms in particular and the Internet sector in general, was imminent and spoke out to prevent it, is still unclear. But Beijing did clamp down on Internet giants, and more heavily on FinTech firms. The hardest hit was Alibaba, and its affiliate Ant was the first to face the blows.

On April 10, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) announced that it had completed the anti-trust investigation. Alibaba had violated Chinese anti-trust laws with its “picking one from two” practice, which forces e-commerce merchants, mostly well-known brand owners, to choose one e-commerce marketplace as their exclusive online distribution channel, SAMR noted. The practice, known as POFT, was first highlighted in 2019 when microwave maker Galanz sued Alibaba for forcing it to choose between itself and JD.com.

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