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China steps up pressure on Alibaba with anti-monopoly probe

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2018, file photo, Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma speaks during a seminar in Bali, Indonesia. China’s market regulator will increase scrutiny and regulation around the community group buying industry in China, summoning some of its largest tech companies involved to discuss the matter as it looks to eradicate anti-monopoly practices in the industry. In a statement on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2020, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation said it had held a meeting with six internet platform companies, including e-commerce firms Alibaba, and Pinduoduo, to discuss the regulation of community group buying. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati, File)

EIJING (AP) — Chinese regulators on Thursday announced an anti-monopoly investigation of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, stepping up official efforts to tighten control over China’s fast-growing tech industries.

The market regulator said it was looking into Alibaba’s policy of “choose one of two,” which requires business partners to avoid dealing with competitors. The one-sentence statement gave no details of possible penalties or a timeline to announce a result.

Chinese leaders said earlier an economic priority in the coming year will be to step up anti-monopoly enforcement. They appear to be especially concerned about tightening control over Alibaba and other dominant internet companies that are expanding into finance, health care and other businesses.

Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, is China’s richest entrepreneur and one of the country’s best-known figures.

Regulators earlier forced the suspension of the stock market debut of Ant Group, an online finance platform spun off from Alibaba.

A separate announcement Thursday said officials of Ant had been summoned to meet with regulators.

Alibaba, the world’s biggest e-commerce company by total sales volume, and another company were fined in mid-December for failing to apply for official approval before proceeding with some acquisitions.

In November, the government released proposed regulations aimed at preventing anti-competitive behavior by internet companies such as signing exclusive contracts and using subsidies to squeeze out competitors.