Unraveling the Jurisdictional Riddle of China’s Antitrust Regime

Richean Li, Feb 28, 2011

Explaining how China enforces its antitrust law is not an easy task: the most difficult problem for anyone who wants to do so is describing how the enforcement power is allocated, and why. Around the world, there are two basic ways to establish a competition law enforcement regime: to build a stand-alone authority and confer to it exclusive implementation power, or to divide and allocate the power among two or more different authorities. The key to the success of the latter model is to carve out an effective arrangement to determine jurisdiction, so as to avoid power vacuum or overlap. To this end, jurisdiction could be allocated either according to the different facets of a specific enforcement action (e.g., the proposed merger reference system in the United Kingdom between the Office of Fair Trade and the Competition Commission), or according to the sovereign pluralism (e.g., the jurisdictional division in the European Union (“EU”) between the European Commission and the national competition authorities, or in the United States and Australia between the federal government and the states, pertaining to all competition matters). The complexity lies in the fact that China has chosen a divided enforcement model that is neither function-based nor sovereignty-based-a system that is simply like no other.