The Chinese leadership is often interpreted as a dialect of unity and enmity which translates to socialist totalitarianism; exercising authority and power that extends influence in all aspects of life. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) need to assert control and censor anti-China content explains its agenda to establish an intricate framework that governs all sectors, i.e., IT, agriculture, pharmaceutical, etc that aligns with its core interest of ‘One Country, One Policy.’
China always takes the first step in censoring content and swaying public opinion in favour of policies they introduce on the pretext of ‘Economic empowerment’, and continues to blindfold people by only presenting information and targeting certain groups that serve their purpose in pursuing its core interests. The actions of CCP’s propaganda department are justified as state interest, i.e., data security, antitrust, financial risk, marketing deception, worker’s rights, content regulation, and burden on children.
China’s politics were dominated by the ‘Red Aristocrats’ but in recent times, a slight change under Xi Jinping’s regime is noticed. The presence of ‘Technocrats’ in the CCP is seemingly becoming prevalent. The increasing impulsion of the inclusivity of technocrats over the prominent aristocrats comes with a price. The enforcement of “Anti-Corruption Crackdown” and “Big-Tech Crackdown” by the CCP to introduce social transformation in China. The ‘common prosperity’ campaign emphasises imposing heavy restrictions on “independent” tech giants’ activities and imposing fines to regulate ‘excess’ wealth.
The campaign covers the “Red New Deal” agenda that explains the need for a crackdown. The government is promising to reduce inequality and offer equal opportunity to ordinary people, this move has garnered genuine support from the people but the concept of ‘red’ emphasises the actions of old-fashioned communist rationale, i.e., companies that get in the way of the government are going to bleed.
On the surface, the tech crackdown is exactly, a clash between government power wielded by the CCP and the ‘tech sector’. The sectors targeted are wide-ranging to pinpoint a certain agenda, however, the core reasons that suffice are 1) an antitrust crackdown, 2) a data security overhaul, and 3) a check on capitalist “excess.”
The regulator of these crackdowns is mostly conducted by the State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR), China’s market watchdog formed in 2018 — leads ‘Antitrust’ scrutiny across a wide range of sectors, and is responsible for imposing heavy fines on companies. SAMR introduced new draft rules to regulate internet platforms a week after Ant Group’s IPO suspension.
A similar body that oversees Data Security is the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), formed in 2014 under the regime of Xi Jinping. The agency is in charge of CCP’s enormous censorship apparatus; ensuring the ‘safety’ of Chinese citizens’ data collected by private companies that do not leak the data out of the country.
The regulators spell out a long list of prohibited behaviours and potentially falling prey to “rigours scrutiny and fine.” The CAC, SAMR and many more regulators target those using logos or designs for products causing confusion; false or misleading publicity materials; any kind of traffic hijacking activities; exclusivity contracts and practices; and using data, algorithms, and other technical means to influence the choices of consumers — which is ironic.
Beijing’s unprecedented clampdown began with Alibaba, the first victim of China’s ‘antitrust’ probe, being fined at a record-breaking high of 2.8 billion dollars. And the suspension of Ant Group’s IPO ( a fin-tech affiliate of Alibaba) in Shanghai and Hong Kong by the regulators, has now lost two-thirds of its market capitalisation since the end of 2020.
Prominent China’s leading tech companies such as Tencent (internet conglomerate), and Meitun (food delivery) — became a target of an antitrust probe and were fined more than $530 million, DiDi (ride-hailing app) — was suspended for suspected violation of cybersecurity laws two days prior to its IPO in the U.S, ByteDance (social media), Full Truck Alliance (freight logistics app), Kanzhun (recruitment), online private tutoring companies like New Oriental Education and TAL Education, and Cryptocurrency Hub was affected by SAMR and CAC’s ludicrous crackdown for failing to disclose mergers, signing exclusive contracts, misleading marketing tactics, and other “merger irregularities.”
Apart from companies’ share price dip in the market after crackdowns; the regulators also take a step further, a nuanced dramatic approach of making technocrats disappear overnight. China has been accused of numerous abductions and disappearances over the decade. One being, the disappearance of Jack Ma for months which sparked international conversation and debate.