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China continues to make its presence felt on the competition law world stage


China image

Hall of Preserving Harmony by See-ming Lee CC 2.0 via Flickr Creative Commons

Over the past decade China has burst onto the global antitrust stage. After years of preparation, China's Anti-Monopoly Law (‘AML’) came into effect in August 2008. Today enforcement is divided between three bodies, which predate the AML. The Ministry of Commerce (‘Mofcom’) deals with merger review, the National Development and Reform Commission (‘NDRC’) enforces antitrust rules on price-related infringements, and the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (‘SAIC’) covers non-price related infringements. So far Mofcom has adopted more than 1,000 merger decisions, making China a must-visit jurisdiction. In recent years NDRC and SAIC have become more active on the antitrust front, pursuing high profile cases the in high-tech sector among others. 

China's AML, while bearing clear traces from European competition law, has some distinct 'Chinese characteristics', such as the need for enforcers to take account of some wider policy considerations. For more detail on the AML such as the impact on the 'national economy' and ' increasing the efficiency and competitiveness of small and medium-sized undertakings' see Peter Wang, Sébastien Evrard, Yizhe Zhang and Baohui Zhang ‘China’ in D Daniel Sokol, Daniel Crane and Ariel Ezrachi (eds) Global Antitrust Compliance Handbook (OUP 2014).

The Chinese antitrust scene is currently going through a particularly dynamic phase. Recent developments, to name but a few, include an agreement signed in Beijing in October between the European Commission's competition department and Mofcom on best practices for cooperation on reviewing mergers, as well as antitrust guidelines for IPR. The press release can be seen here. 

In April 2015 SAIC issued general guidelines on abuse of dominance and IPRs. A few months later NDRC consulted stakeholders on guidelines applicable to the auto industry ― China’s ever first sector specific antitrust guidance. Developments in the area of competition policy and enforcement should also be viewed against the background of the Third Plenum Decision of 18 November 2013, by which China launched a wide-ranging blueprint for economic reform based on a greater role for the market.  Practitioners around the world are well advised to continue to keep China firmly fixed on their horizon.

Niklas Fagerlund, Directorate General for Competition, European Commission

The views expressed are purely those of the writer and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission.