China Enforces Regular Government Meetings to Coordinate Big Tech Policies

China Enforces Regular Government Meetings to Coordinate Big Tech Policies
Photo: ndrc.gov.cn 27.07.2022 133

The Chinese government has established an interministerial meeting mechanism focused on the country’s digital economy, a small step towards aligning different regulators in supervising Chinese Big Tech companies.

The arrangement, which would see all members gather at least once a year, brings together top officials from 20 government bodies, reported SCMP.

They include the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), and the Public Security Bureau.

Maria Belyaeva, an expert from the BRICS Competition Centre, speaks about the tasks of the interministerial meeting: 

"The main tasks for participants will be to study and coordinate key issues in the digital economy; develop policy recommendations (for example, on digital transformation or big data development); oversee the annual results of sector development activities; facilitate the formation of a regulatory framework; plan major infrastructure projects and demonstration zones, etc."

As various ministries and regulators rushed to impose their authority over the tech sector over the past year, inconsistencies and conflicting priorities have emerged.

A meeting mechanism is one of the most basic coordination arrangements within the Chinese government, designed primarily for different parties to communicate rather than to make policy decisions. Trying to make sense of the digital economy phenomenon, China is well aware that it is a syncretic sector at the intersection of many industries, the expert notes. 

"Agencies have been actively cooperating even before the creation of the meeting, holding joint seminars with key digital players: for example, after the Alibaba fine, SAMR together with the Administration of Cyberspace and the PRC Tax Administration gathered 34 digital platforms to help them learn a lesson from the investigation."

Released in January this year, the policy document on the healthy development of the platform economy was also prepared by nine agencies at once, including the Ministry of Industry and Information, the Ministry of Commerce, the People's Bank of China and others.

While internet watchdog CAC and antitrust regulator SAMR have grabbed national headlines with their involvement in the country's regulatory clampdown against Big Tech companies, the State Council has designated the NDRC, China's top economic planner, as the convenor. The new committee's office will also be located at the NDRC, in another subtle sign that those meetings will focus on development rather than crackdowns.

According to Maria Belyaeva, cooperation has now become more formal, but this is more indicative of the announced "normalization" of regulation rather than tightening it: 

"At this stage, the authorities are tasked with making the regulatory practices that were presented as reinforced a year and a half ago the norm".
digital markets  China 

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