The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken further steps to curb e-commerce giant Alibaba with the launch of an antitrust investigation into the tech company headed by tycoon Jack Ma.
“Based on tip-offs received by the State Administration for Market Regulation in recent days, the administration will be investigating Alibaba … for suspected monopolistic activities,” the administration said in a statement on its website.
The statement was reportedly linked to a policy forcing sellers using Alibaba.com to commit to using that platform exclusively, preventing them from also using rival platforms JD.com and Pinduoduo.
Alibaba issued a statement saying it would actively cooperate with the regulatory body, and that company operations would continue as normal.
The news prompted an eight percent fall in the value of the company’s shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Thursday.
The announcement came amid ongoing scrutiny by financial market regulators of Ma’s Ant Group, which runs the Alipay payments system.
“Today, Ant Group received a meeting notice from regulators,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.
There are indications that the decision to go after Ant and Alibaba is coming from highest echelons of the CCP leadership.
An article in the CCP’s official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, touted “anti-monopoly work” as leading to “better development,” based on recent calls from the CCP’s Politburo.
The Politburo was of the opinion that the government should “strengthen anti-monopoly work and prevent the disorderly expansion of capital,” the paper said.
Internet finance industry insider Song Qing said the investigation is part of CCP plans to nationalize both Ant Group and Alibaba.
“There will definitely be an outcome, now that they have started the investigation,” Song told RFA. “This is probably coming from the highest levels.”
“Just a couple of weeks ago, they set out plans to nationalize Ant Group and Alibaba; the timing was deliberate,” Song said. “Those plans all came from the central leadership.”
“These nationalizations are definitely happening, and [the antitrust investigation] will likely speed up that process,” Song said. “It’s also, I think, about making an example of [Ant and Alibaba].”
Central government investigators had already set up camp in Alibaba headquarters by the end of November, according to industry sources.
The company will also be called to follow-up meetings with the People’s Bank of China, the China Banking Regulatory Commission, the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange after regulators slammed the brakes on Alibaba’s New York listing in early November.
Investigative teams are also in place at the offices of social media giant Tencent and e-commerce company Meituan.
A Nanjing-based economist surnamed Qian said China’s tech companies actually promote economic health and development.
“Tax rates for traditional businesses are too high, and online businesses have lower transaction costs, as well as being more convenient [for the customer],” Qian said. “The internet industry … is actually a healthy thing for the market economy.”
Lin Jiaqi, director of Hong Kong Honghui Asset Management, said he expects that the Alibaba investigation will help the CCP to form future policy towards the country’s tech giants.
“I think the central government will keep going with more investigations of other companies,” Lin said. “We will see more and more antitrust investigations, and the sanctions for [alleged] monopolies will gradually increase.”
State media have been keen to paint the government’s targeting of Ma’s tech empire as a campaign to subject the nation’s super-rich to public scrutiny and regulation.
“They are targeting this huge company … because they want people to hate the super-rich,” commentator Guan Xingwang told RFA.
“They are using this propaganda to justify expanding state control of the economy, and diminishing the power of the private sector,” he said. “This is another step towards nationalization.”
CCP general secretary Xi Jinping unveiled plans at the end of October to move China to a state-controlled, “circular” economy based on domestic demand, and away from the export-based model that has fueled rapid growth since 1979, when late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping ushered in four decades of market-based economic policy.
Analysts have said there a widespread expectation that Xi will move to change the current system of property ownership.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
WestJet Boeing 737 MAX flight grounded at Calgary airport after ‘potential fault’ warning – Global News
According to WestJet, Flight WS658 had passengers on board and was getting ready to take off, when it was “returned to the gate after push back.”
“After a normal engine start, a standard function of the health monitoring system indicated a potential fault that needed to be verified and reset,” WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart said in an emailed statement.
“This process takes time and requires a subsequent engine run, which we do not perform with guests on board.”
1st Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada after grounding
Stewart said the flight was cancelled, and the 35 passengers were instead put on Flight WS662, boarding a planned Dreamliner flight “only because we didn’t want to keep them waiting.” The aircraft’s return flight, WS665 from Toronto to Calgary, was also cancelled.
The Boeing 737 MAX was cleared for flight shortly after the passengers got off, and is set to return to service on Sunday, Stewart said.
According to the Calgary airport’s website, WS658 was set to take off at 8 a.m. Stewart said all of the guests on the original flight have since landed in Toronto.
WestJet flew Canada’s first commercial flight on a 737 MAX in almost two years just one day prior, after the aircraft was taken out of Canadian skies following two deadly crashes.
Chris Bauenbusch, president of CUPE Local 4070 which represents WestJet’s flight attendants, was on the cancelled flight, working as a flight attendant, when the plane had to return to the gate.
He said in the airline industry, it’s “common to have the odd hiccup here and there.”
“Obviously there’s a heightened focus on a model of aircraft coming back into service, such as what’s happening with that aircraft,” he said. “But these are common things that happen on a daily basis.”
Bauenbusch said from a union perspective, they have no issues with their members flying on the aircraft.
“The union maintains… that this is a safe aircraft, through all the rigor that it’s been put through,” he said.
In a statement, Transport Canada said it was aware of the flight that “opted to return to the gate.”
“We understand the pilots made this decision due to a cockpit warning light that signaled before departure,” the agency said.
“This incident is not related to the previous grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
COVID-19 vaccine delay doesn't take away from Ont.'s failures: Doctor – CTV News
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WestJet halts Boeing 737 Max jet before takeoff after warning light in cockpit – CBC.ca
WestJet temporarily grounded a Boeing 737 Max jet that was supposed to fly from Calgary to Toronto on Friday after a warning light came on in the cockpit prior to takeoff.
Flight 658 was boarded and preparing to take off when a warning light came on.
“After a normal engine start, a standard function of the health monitoring system indicated a potential fault that needed to be verified and reset,” WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart told CBC News.
“This process takes time and requires a subsequent engine run, which we do not perform with guests on board [so] in the interest of our guests’ time, we cancelled Flight 658 and its return 665 (Toronto/Calgary), and we rebooked them on the next available flight to ensure a timely arrival in Toronto.”
The airline says passengers were boarded onto a 787 jet and flew as planned within the hour.
Jet in question cleared to fly again
The jet in question has already been cleared and is on track for its next flight on Sunday.
The Calgary-based airline’s fleet of 13 Max jets were grounded for almost two years after more than 300 people died in two high profile crashes of the jets, operated by Ethiopian Airlines and Indonesia’s Lion Air in 2018 and 2019.
WestJet grounded its fleet of Max jets like most airlines around the world did until earlier this month, when flight authorities cleared the jets for takeoff again.
The flight would have been the jet in question’s first flight since being approved for use again, and only the third Max flight at WestJet overall since reintroduction this week.
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