China has answered to potentially crippling allegations that anti-monopoly regulators have targeted foreign enterprises, giving homegrown counterparts a competitive edge — which a U.S. trade body said earlier this month would violate Beijing’s commitments to the World Trade Organization.
Chinese diplomats said in an email to Al Jazeera that in the six years since the enactment of China’s anti-monopoly law, fewer than 10 percent of enterprises targeted for price fixing were foreign-funded.
“China will continue to open its gate and continue to expand it, continue to improve and perfect the business environment,” said the statement from the Chinese Embassy in Washington.
The response is apparently aimed at safeguarding China’s reputation with the international business community amid a sweeping crackdown on graft that has in recent months set its sights on scores of foreign companies, from U.S. tech titan Microsoft to British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.
The Chinese Embassy’s comment comes a little over a week after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce alleged that the current law props up China’s state-owned enterprises, allowing them to establish monopolies over the nation’s banking and energy industries, to name a few.
The diplomats offered no further details on the Chinese or foreign companies targeted for investigation by authorities. But The Beijing Times reported on Monday that since the beginning of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s crackdown, 67 executives of state-owned enterprises — from the energy, communications and other sectors — have been fired and faced legal penalties. None of the executives’ names were released.
Regulators earlier this month fined 23 Chinese property insurers and an insurance organization in the nation’s southern Zhejiang province $17.8 million for price fixing.
Analysts say the verdict is still out on whether Xi’s sweeping campaign to uproot corruption in the public and private sectors can successfully rid China of a phenomenon that is costing the country some 10 percent of its annual gross domestic product, according to an estimate from independent Shanghai-based economist Andy Xie Guozhong. Some have observed that while the anti-graft efforts are desperately needed — in particular to welcome foreign investment — enforcers appear to have targeted some of Xi’s perceived political adversaries.