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Beijing official says crackdown on tech companies is over

We might be looking at a new China for 2023 and the Year of the Rabbit

After two chaotic years for China’s tech industry, a top Chinese central bank official has told state sponsored media Beijing’s regulatory crackdown is coming to a close.

In an interview with the state-controlled Xinhua news agency on Saturday, Chinese Communist Party secretary of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), Guo Shuqing, said a campaign seeking to rectify the financial business of 14 platform companies “has been basically completed.”

Guo said a few problems are yet to be resolved and said that will supervise platform companies to encourage regulatory compliance, and nurture them to “play a major role in leading development, creating employment, and international competition.”

The official also spoke about business access to money and Beijing’s attitude toward IPOs. He said access to credit and financing in the stock and bond markets have “gradually improved” for large and medium sized orgs and that in 2022, Chinese enterprises will rank first globally in terms of IPOs, accounting for half of funds raised.

Among the platforms aggressively targeted by the crackdown are internet giants like Baidu, Alibaba, Didi and Tencent.

Alibaba’s financial arm, Ant Group, has been a target of Beijing as it has both made it harder for Ant to offer certain types of` loans and even blocked its IPO.

This week the company said Alibaba founder Jack Ma would give up control of the org, an action that could signal it is preparing to IPO. Alibaba said it has no plan for listing and would be required to wait between one and three years after such a structural change before doing so.

China also imposed sweeping new privacy regulations, changed the rules for cross-border data sharing, restricted gaming, and forbid certain types of content from appearing online.

The nation's big tech companies were required to implement those policies, and to police the communities they host to ensure they did not carry content, or comment, that Beijing frowns upon.

Beijing imposed those changes in the name of decency, and to prevent tech companies and their execs becoming power centres that could rival the Communist Party as a source of inspiration, authority, and influence.

While Beijing's actions were widely seen as a crackdown, China has in recent weeks softened in other ways.

An example of that attitude change came yesterday with the transfer of Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesperson Zhao Lijian to a less prominent position as deputy head of the ministry’s Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs.

Zhao was a controversial character who engaged in “wolf warrior diplomacy”, a strident and unsubtle expression of China's place in the world. Zhao's Twitter feed was one of the few published by a Chinese official, and seldom strayed from a frank and blunt view of foreign affairs that eschewed diplomatic language.

Among his most notable posts was one posting a digitally manipulate image of a child being murdered by an Australian soldier, and another promoting COVID conspiracy theories that purport the US military was responsible for the spread of the virus.

His move to a new gig suggests China will use a different tone online. Indeed, the Chinese Foreign Ministry's daily briefings have recently used gentler language, although without backing down from Beijing's view of the world. ®

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