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China moves to tame rapidly growing Tech sector, with Alibaba at the helm

Yehia El Amine

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growing Tech sector

Chinese antitrust regulators are considering a record fine to slap on e-commerce titan Alibaba Group along with smaller fines against other leading technology companies in a bid to tame China’s sprawling tech industry, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday citing people familiar with the matter.

The regulator has already issued fines on Friday to tech companies including social media giant Tencent, ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing, and search engine Baidu over 10 investment deals in the Internet sector that were in violation of the Anti-Monopoly Law, the watchdog said in a statement.

According to Wall Street Journal sources, the fine to be imposed on Alibaba Group by China’s State Administration for Market Regulations will exceed the $975 million fine paid by American semiconductor company Qualcomm back in 2015 over anticompetitive practices, to become the largest in the country’s corporate history.

The Chinese government is looking to propose an overhaul to its Anti-Monopoly Law which would give authorities the power to issue fines up to 10 percent of an offending company’s annual revenues.

According to the regulator’s statement, the fines will include violations made by Tencent’s 2018 investment in edtech firm Yuanfudao, Baidu’s 2014 acquisition of smart home equipment maker Ainemo, and a joint venture set up by Didi and Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.

Twelve companies including Tencent, and Baidu were each fined approximately $77,000 for their involvement in the deals. The penalty is the maximum for unreported anti-competitive deals according to China’s current antitrust law.

In February, China put into effect new antitrust guidelines targeting Internet platforms, which bans internet platforms from forcing merchants into exclusivity deals, offering different prices based on user data, and using algorithms to manipulate the market.

“On March 12, 2021, the State Administration of Market Supervision made an administrative penalty decision in accordance with Articles 48 and 49 of the Anti-Monopoly Law of the People’s Republic of China, and imposed twelve companies,” the regulator statement said.

According to the Anti-Monopoly Law, companies are required to report investments or acquisitions and mergers that could possibly create a “market dominant player,” or one that would hold more than 50 percent share of its relevant market.

The statement added that, after investigation, the above cases all violated Article 21 of the Anti-Monopoly Law of the People’s Republic of China and constituted an illegal implementation of in terms of concentration of undertakings. The assessment found that they did not have the effect of eliminating or restricting competition.

In recent months, China’s leadership has stepped up its efforts to tame its local tech firms over antitrust regulations, sending a message to the industry that commercial success is secondary to the mission of bolstering Chinese technological security.

It is notable, that Friday’s disciplinary action involves the largest number of companies so far and the fines issued were the maximum amount allowed by China’s existing legal framework.

However, while these issued fines are considered pennies in the eyes of the country’s leading tech firms, the Chinese leadership is primarily focusing on the mammoth-like Alibaba Group, who has been in the Communist Party’s crosshairs for almost a year.

Previously in October 2020, Alibaba Group’s CEO and founder Jack Ma angered the country’s Communist party by calling regulators too conservative in a speech, while urging them to be more innovative.

The speech came in response to the government’s cancelation of the impending stock market debut of Ant Group, an online finance platform that grew out of Alipay. Alibaba’s share price sank, possibly costing Ma his status as China’s richest tycoon.

Since then, the normally voluble Ma has stayed out of the public eye, canceled a TV appearance, and avoided social media.

It is worth mentioning that Chinese regulators already came down hard on Ant Group, by forcing it to make several changes that will severely impede its growth prospects.

China’s regulators consider Ant as a threat to the stability of the financial system.

In parallel, however, the Wall Street Journal’s inside sources highlighted that the Alibaba will receive a much softer approach, since they “don’t want to crush a technology powerhouse popular with both Chinese households and global investors—as long as it disassociates itself from its flashy and outspoken founder and aligns itself more closely with the Communist Party.”

In addition, the sources cited noted that “none of the measures under consideration would come close to crippling the company, whose businesses include online retail, entertainment, media and cloud computing.”

Alibaba is seen by the country’s top leadership as the pride of China, representing a model for how technological innovation is vital to the nation’s economy in terms of job creation, Internet presence, and market share. Some 780 million Chinese consumers, or half of the country’s population, made purchases through the company’s platforms last year.

From a financial perspective, the e-commerce mammoth enjoyed a net income of nearly $20 billion in its recent fiscal year, thus, a fine would be the best possible action to cool off tension between both entities.

At the opening last week of China’s annual legislative session, Premier Li Keqiang declared that “the state supports the innovation and development of platform companies.” But Beijing also has another message for its tech giants: No matter how big or innovative they may be, they must align themselves with the state by championing causes such as poverty alleviation.

While Ant Chairman Eric Jing has promised employees that the company will go forth with the IPO eventually, investors expect its valuation to be lower after a restructuring in line with regulators’ new requirements.

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Yehia is an investigative journalist and editor with extensive experience in the news industry as well as digital content creation across the board. He strives to bring the human element to his writing.

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The latest: vaccines to be made available at Alaska airports

Associated Press

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Alaska airports

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy says COVID-19 vaccines would be made available at key airports in the state starting June 1.

He made the announcement Friday, as he unveiled plans aimed at bolstering Alaska’s pandemic-battered tourist industry.

Dunleavy, a Republican, outlined plans for a national marketing campaign aimed at luring tourists and said the vaccine offering is “probably another good reason to come to the state of Alaska in the summer.”

Dunleavy and other state leaders have been pushing to allow large cruise ships to return to Alaska after COVID-19 restrictions kept them away last year.

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2.7 million products on display at China’s digital Canton Trade Fair

Inside Telecom Staff

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Digital Canton Trade Fair

The China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair) opened its 129th session on Wednesday, and what is its third digital exhibition. 260 thousand exhibitors present a record-breaking 2.7 million products across 16 categories, 82 thousand of which will be new products.

Exhibitors will showcase their products through cutting-edge digital presentations such as pictures, videos, 3D and livestreams, including 2,600 virtual reality showrooms and 137 online new product launches.

Xu Bing, spokesperson of the Canton Fair, noted that the 129th Canton Fair, built on the previous two digital sessions successfully held in 2020, has further optimized its digital platform to facilitate accessible and convenient business communication between suppliers and buyers.

“The Canton Fair has been promoting trade exchanges and stabilizing the global industrial supply chain over the years, and we hope the 129th session can contribute to China’s new development pattern where domestic and foreign markets can boost each other,” Xu said.

Canton, now known as Guangzhou, is the capital and most populous city in the province of Guangdong, which popularly called “the factory of the world.”

Located on the Pearl River about 120 km north-northwest of Hong Kong, Canton (Guangzhou) has a trade history of over 2,200 years and was historically the major trading terminus for the ancient, globalized Silk Road which traveled from China to the Mediterranean and southern Europe.

The metropolis continues in the modern era as a major port and transportation hub and is one of China’s three largest cities. 

This year’s Canton Fair brings functional improvements to enable efficient business matching, including leveraging resources in livestreams, allowing easy access to the Help Center, offering an upgraded Exhibitor Centre management tool, and providing an intelligent customer service system with multiple language support.

Aiming to provide buyers with an optimal experience throughout the grand online international trade event, the Fair is also embracing an inclusive participation with targeted market segment incentives and activities.

Focusing on China’s global “Belt and Road Initiative” and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) countries, the Canton Fair has been working closely with international business associations.

Forty-four exhibition virtual events hosted in 32 countries with topics covering promotion, matchmaking, and cooperation agreement signing, along with over 300 trainings for overseas buyers, email direct marketing and global partnership programs, will help global buyers understand their targeted industries and the product categories of interest which are showcased at the Canton Fair.

To allow buyers to do barrier-free business across borders, the Canton Fair is introducing a wide range of supporting services, such as professional settlements, financing to insurance, logistic support for transportation, inspection to quality certification, as well as online customs support and policy interpretation.

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Google Earth adds time lapse video to depict climate change

Associated Press

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Google Earth adds time lapse video to depict climate change

The Google Earth app is adding a new video feature that draws upon nearly four decades of satellite imagery to vividly illustrate how climate change has affected glaciers, beaches, forests and other places around the world.

The tool unveiled Thursday is rolling out in what is being billed as the biggest update to Google Earth in five years. Google says it undertook the complex project in partnership with several government agencies, including NASA in the U.S. and its European counterpart, in hopes that it will help a mass audience grasp the sometimes abstract concept of climate change in more tangible terms through its free Earth app.

Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald believes that mission may be accomplished.

“This is amazing,” she told The Associated Press after watching a preview of the new feature. “Trying to get people to understand the scope of the climate change and the land use problem is so difficult because of the long time and spatial scales. I would not be surprised if this one bit of software changes many people’s minds about the scale of the impact of humans on the environment.”

This isn’t the first time time-lapse satellite imagery has been used to demonstrate show how parts of the world are changing before our eyes due to a changing climate. Most scientists agree that climate change is being driven by pollution primarily produced by humans.

But earlier images have mostly focused on melting glaciers and haven’t been widely available on an already popular app like Google Earth, which can be downloaded on most of the more than 3 billion smartphones now in use around the world

Google is promising that people will be able to see a time lapse presentation of just about anywhere they want to search. The feature also includes a storytelling mode highlighting 800 different places on the planet in both 2D and 3D formats. Those videos also will be available on Google’s YouTube video site, a service more widely used than the Earth app.

The feature was created from 24 million satellite images taken every year from 1984 to 2020 and provided by NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey and the European Union, according to Google. The time lapse technology was created with the help of Carnegie Mellon University.

Google plans to update the time lapse imagery at least once a year.


SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — By MICHAEL LIEDTKE AP Technology Writer

AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this story from Washington.

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