China To Grow Antitrust Watchdog’s Reach

China is considering boosting the status of its antitrust bureau within the market regulatory agency as it steps up a campaign against anti-competitive behavior, two people familiar with the matter said.

Urged on by President Xi Jinping, the once low-profile State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) has made headlines this year with a push to root-out and penalize anticompetitive behavior, particularly in the vast online “platform” economy.

Under a new structure under consideration by the government, the antitrust bureau would become the National Antimonopoly Bureau and be elevated to deputy-ministerial status, while remaining within SAMR, said two people with knowledge of the plans.

The higher ranking would help antitrust investigators gain resources when examining mergers and acquisitions, the people said, strengthening their hand as Beijing seeks to rein in the power of corporate behemoths.

The proposed new structure, details of which have not been reported before, would also bolster SAMR’s in-house capability to conduct research that it has previously had to outsource, according to the people.

Reuters reported in April that Beijing was planning to bulk up SAMR’s antitrust workforce and delegate case reviewing power to its local bureaus.

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