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Alibaba CEO says China's scrutiny of internet platforms is needed

By Yingzhi Yang and Josh Horwitz
·2-min read

By Yingzhi Yang and Josh Horwitz

WUZHEN, China (Reuters) - China's increasing oversight of internet platforms is both "timely and necessary", Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang told the World Internet Conference on Monday.

Zhang said Chinese internet companies had moved to the forefront of the global industry with the help of government policies, but regulations need to evolve.

"To ensure a more orderly and healthy development of the internet and the digital economy, relevant state departments are seeking opinions on policies and regulations for the internet platforms ... this is very timely and necessary," he said.

A planned $37 billion stock listing of Alibaba affiliate Ant Group was suspended this month after regulators warned its lucrative online lending business faced tighter scrutiny.

Zhang is one of the few Chinese technology chiefs to appear in person at the Cyberspace Administration of China's annual event, which was scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event is taking place against a backdrop of increasing scrutiny from Beijing for China's internet giants including Alibaba, Tencent Holdings and Meituan.

Alibaba's e-commerce marketplaces and payment services are also expected to face greater oversight under the draft rules published on Nov. 10 by China's market regulator, which said it wanted to prevent platforms from dominating the market or from adopting methods aimed at blocking fair competition.

The company and its rivals have come under fire for allegedly engaging in a practice referred to as "two choose one," in China, in which e-commerce platforms penalize sellers who offer goods on rival sites.

In an earnings call last week, chief strategy officer Liao Jianwen of JD.com, an Alibaba rival, said the company "fully supports" the draft regulations.

China's government has also issued draft regulations governing micro-lending and personal data protection that are expected to apply to internet platforms.

(Reporting by Yingzhi Yang and Josh Horwitz in Wuzhen; Writing by Brenda Goh; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Stephen Coates and Alexander Smith)