Daniel Zhang Yong, chairman and CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, said that the record antitrust fine in April made the company “more thoughtful about the responsibilities” of a platform company as Beijing continues its sweeping regulatory crackdown on the country’s tech industry.
“Internet platform businesses inherently share common characteristics with society,” Zhang said in a letter to shareholders on Tuesday. “We need to give more thought towards the positive value being created for society; addressing challenges related to essential technology; supporting the development of rural revitalisation; becoming more environmentally friendly and sustainable.”
Zhang’s remarks come as the country’s technology firms are under scrutiny by both Beijing and society at large for putting profits before social responsibility.
Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post, was fined 18.2 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion) three months ago for monopolistic practices including “picking one from two” that forced online merchants to choose just one distribution channel.
Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group Holding Daniel Zhang Yong at a ceremony marking the strategic partnership between the e-commerce giant and Universal Beijing in October 2019. Photo: Reuters
On-demand food delivery platform Meituan is also the subject of an investigation into similar practices while ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing faces a cybersecurity review after the company “forced its way” to a New York listing late last month.
The almost continuous crackdown on China’s tech industry from different government bodies seems to be getting worse.
Dozens of companies listed in Shanghai and Hong Kong have seen their share price tumble after Beijing banned off-campus tutoring last week from providing holiday and weekend services.
In addition, companies that operate edtech platforms, or services that provide online education, will no longer be allowed to raise capital through initial public offerings (IPOs) while listed companies and overseas investors are barred from investing, or acquiring stakes, in education firms that teach school curriculum, according to the rules which were formally released on July 24.
What’s more, China’s internet ministry has launched a fresh nationwide campaign to purge what it deems problems in the internet industry.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), one of China’s top government bodies responsible for regulating the tech industry, has begun a six-month campaign to address the “tough problems” of the internet industry, including disturbing market order, infringing users’ rights, threatening data security and unauthorised internet connects, the ministry said in a notice published to its website on Monday.
Separately, Alibaba disclosed the current members of its Alibaba Partnership, a management system established a decade ago that enables senior managers to collaborate and sidestep the bureaucracy of a company its size.
The latest additions to the partnership include Chen Lijuan, vice-president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, Shao Wenlan vice-president of Ant Group, Wang Hai, vice-president of industrial e-commerce, as well as Zhu Shunyan, president of the intelligent information business group.