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China

Tech crackdowns rid China of entrepreneurial capitalism

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East Asia Forum

Abstract

Chinese authorities have recently shifted their approach towards China’s top platform tech companies. The crackdown that began in November 2020 with Ant Group’s cancelled IPO has now transitioned into extending an olive branch. By June 2023, China’s economy was struggling and youth unemployment had risen above 21 percent.

Author: Martin Miszerak, Renmin University

Since early 2023, Chinese authorities have started extending an olive branch to China’s top platform tech companies after over two years of ‘regulatory crackdown’. The crackdown started in November 2020 with the cancellation of the initial public offering (IPO) of e-commerce giant Ant Group — an affiliate of Alibaba.

Besides Ant Group, the ‘rectification’ affected most of China’s large platform companies. Yet by June 2023, a cold was blowing over China’s economy. The post-COVID-19 recovery was faltering. Youth unemployment rose above 21 per cent.

The authorities also likely concluded that they had accomplished most of the objectives of the rectification. At the China Development Forum in March 2023, Premier Li Qiang bent over backwards to assure prominent Western CEOs that China was welcoming the private sector, both foreign and domestic.

There is no consensus among academic and journalistic commentators about the crackdown’s ‘true’ objectives. One view holds that it was a personality clash between the ‘exuberance’ of Jack Ma — Alibaba’s founder and China’s most prominent private entrepreneur — and the fundamentally Maoist orientation of President Xi Jinping.

But a focus on Jack Ma ignores the fact that essentially all platform companies underwent some form of rectification. Another view holds that it was simply a scheme to clip the wings of China’s top private companies, given Xi Jinping’s embrace of the state-owned sector. Yet data showing an increasing penetration of China’s economy by large private companies belied Xi Jinping’s alleged hostility to the private sector.

Others maintain that a ‘great’ rectification was needed to align the mission of platform tech companies with Xi Jinping’s social policy objectives such as ‘common prosperity’ and the drive against ‘disorderly expansion of capital’. But the true objective of the crackdown had little to do with regulation, as authorities’ actions went beyond what might be considered an imposition of a stricter regulation.

Regulatory rectification was only a vehicle to accomplish other objectives. The crackdown was characterised by a spate of shareholder wealth destruction. Ant Group was headed for its IPO in November 2020 at an implied valuation of US$313 billion. Yet in July 2023, Ant Group launched a share buyback at a valuation that was 70 per cent lower. The global ride-sharing leader, Didi Chuxing, conducted its New York IPO in June 2021 at a valuation of US$70 billion. After a forced delisting from the New York Stock Exchange, it is currently trading over the counter with a market capitalisation of about US$16.7 billion.

The other side of the coin was the wealth extraction from platform companies to various state-owned entities. One instrument of extraction was in the form of unprecedented fines. Alibaba was fined US$2.8 billion in April 2021 for alleged abuse of market dominance.

Another method of extraction was through ‘voluntary’ contributions to causes championed by Xi Jinping. Tencent — the global game leader and investor in many start-ups — ‘earmarked’ US$7.7 billion in 2021 to a fund dedicated to ‘common prosperity’.

Another extraction mechanism was carried out through putting a brake on platform companies’ ability to grow. Didi was barred from…

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The New Company Law brings substantial changes with implications for new and existing foreign invested enterprises and stakeholders. Foreign investors must assess if adjustments to existing structures

Despite recent economic challenges, many organizations’ China operations provide unparalleled access to one of the world’s largest and most competitive global supply chains. Over the past 30 years, a significant number of foreign invested enterprises (FIEs) have been established in China. As of the end of 2022, the number of FIEs operating in China had exceeded 1.12 million.

Compared to their domestic counterparts, FIEs demonstrate greater caution regarding legal revisions and are diligent in making swift adjustments. This stems not only from the closer scrutiny FIEs face from regulatory authorities but also from their commitment to compliance and maintaining a competitive edge.

Clearly, there has been a shift in China’s corporate regulations—from merely encouraging an increase in the number of companies to focusing on attracting mature enterprises and higher-quality investments. While the transition from a broad approach to a more refined one may cause short-term challenges, it ultimately benefits the company’s long-term development. By returning to the original intent of setting registered capital, it not only protects the interests of creditors but also shields shareholders from the operational risks of the company.

In China’s foreign investment landscape, while most FIEs exercise commercial prudence in determining registered capital—factoring in capital expenditures, operational costs, and setting aside surplus funds—some opt for higher registered capital levels to avoid future capital increase procedures. This typically involves lengthy document signing and registration changes, lasting 1-2 months.

Joint ventures (JVs) often impose stricter payment deadlines for registered capital in their articles of association to ensure both parties’ simultaneous contributions align with operational needs. Conversely, wholly foreign-owned enterprises (WFOEs) tend to favor flexibility in payment deadlines, often allowing full payment before the company’s operational period expires.

Given these circumstances, despite the generally stronger capital adequacy among foreign companies compared to domestic entities, many FIEs could be affected by the new capital contribution rules.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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Foreign Tourist Groups on Cruise Ships Fully Permitted Visa-Free Entry in China

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China will allow visa-free entry for foreign tourist groups arriving by cruise ship at 13 ports along the coast, starting May 15, 2024. Visitors must stay with the same ship and in permitted areas for up to 15 days. This policy aims to boost tourism and facilitate high-quality development in the cruise industry.


China’s immigration agency announced that it will grant a visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups to enter China by cruise at all cruise ports along the coast of China, starting May 15, 2024. The tourist group must remain with the same cruise ship until its next port of call and stay within permitted areas for no more than 15 days.

Effective May 15, 2024, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) has officially implemented a visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China via cruise ships. This progressive move aims to enhance personnel exchanges and foster cooperation between China and other nations, furthering the country’s commitment to high-level openness.

Under this policy, foreign tourist groups, comprising two or more individuals, who travel by cruise ship and are organized by Chinese domestic travel agencies, can now enjoy visa-free entry as a cohesive group at cruise ports in 13 cities along the Chinese coast.

The tourist group must remain with the same cruise ship until its next port of call and stay within China for no more than 15 days. The eligible areas for this policy are coastal provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) and Beijing.

Furthermore, to support cruise tourism development, seven additional cruise ports—Dalian, Lianyungang, Wenzhou, Zhoushan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Beihai—have been included as applicable ports for visa-free transit.

The recent implementation of the visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China via cruise ships is poised to have several significant effects. The policy will provide crucial support for the cruise economy and the overall cruise industry. By facilitating smoother travel for foreign tourist groups, it acts as a catalyst for high-quality development in this sector.

Additionally, under this policy, international cruise companies can strategically plan their global routes by designating Chinese port cities, such as Shanghai, Xiamen, and Shenzhen, as docking destinations. This move is expected to attract more cruise ships to Chinese ports, ultimately bringing in a larger number of international visitors to the Chinese market.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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China’s New Tariff Law: Streamlining and Standardizing Current Tariff Regulations

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China’s new Tariff Law consolidates import and export duties, clarifies rules for imposing counter-tariffs, and sets a December 1, 2024 effective date. It codifies existing practices on cross-border e-commerce and rules on the origin of goods into law, impacting trade relations.


China’s new Tariff Law consolidates rules on import and export duties that were previously implemented via several legal documents and makes important clarifications and additions to prior regulations. Among other changes, it stipulates provisions for the Chinese government to impose counter-tariffs on imported goods, codifying these powers into law for the first time. We outline all the notable updates to the China Tariff Law and discuss the implications for the country’ current trade relations. 

On April 26, 2024, the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature, adopted the Tariff Law of the People’s Republic of China (the “Tariff Law”) after several rounds of revisions.

The new Tariff Law will replace the Import and Export Tariff Regulations of the People’s Republic of China, which fall under the purview of the State Council, and adopts many of its provisions.

Previously, Chinese law had not stipulated legislative powers to implement countervailing tariffs, although China was nonetheless able to impose counter-tariffs on trade partners through other means.

China’s new Tariff Law comes into effect on December 1, 2024.

China’s Tariff Law elevates several existing provisions and practices to the level of law. For instance, Article 3 of the Tariff Law clarifies the obligations of cross-border e-commerce platforms for tariff withholding and implementing consolidated taxation.

The Tariff Law also solidifies the rules and regulations on the origin of goods, stipulating that the application of tariff rates shall comply with the corresponding rules of origin. Although this has been previously implemented in practice, it is the first time this has been codified into law.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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