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China's Competition Policy Reforms: The Antimonopoly Law and Beyond

Apr 2007
Working Paper
06-032
By  Bruce Owen, Su Sun, Wentong Zheng
More than twelve years have elapsed since China began its efforts to enact a comprehensive antitrust law. Today, drafts of the law are still being debated, with no real signs of enactment. Such a protracted legislative process is highly unusual in China, and can only be explained by the controversy the draft law generates. After a brief review of China’s current competition policy and the new draft antitrust law, this paper discusses the fundamental issues in China’s economy that give rise to the challenges facing China’s antitrust policymakers in enacting the new antitrust law. These issues include the role of state-owned enterprises, perceived excessive competition in China’s economy, mergers and acquisitions by foreign companies, the treatment of administrative monopolies, and the enforcement of the antitrust law. While those controversies create significant policy issues for China, they do not constitute valid objections to the enactment of the new antitrust law. Meanwhile, it will be important for China to recognize that the new antitrust law alone will not be sufficient to fully realize its goal of promoting competition in its economy; other reforms will be necessary as well. China will be better off by moving swiftly to enact the new antitrust law, while keeping the momentum to engage in those other reforms.