China has launched an anti-monopoly investigation against Alibaba, which triggered a varying degree of speculation as anti-monopoly is not an area that China was familiar with in the past. I think there may be inevitably a certain level of speculation, but it shouldn’t be encouraged.
China has witnessed rapid development. Internet giants such as Alibaba have risen rapidly in recent years. On one hand, it has contributed to the development of the Internet economy and boosted China’s competitiveness, on the other, complaints over the company’s monopoly in some areas are increasingly rising. It’s imperative to put forward in-depth internet governance.
It’s illogical to assume that China intends to “crush” a successful leading enterprise. If a company during its rapid expansion receives regulatory actions taken by relevant authorities based on laws and regulations, consequently it collapses like a deflated rubber ball and public opinion regards it as a signal of China’s national policy change, this will be quite abnormal.
No matter how big an enterprise is, it must operate and expand in line with national laws and regulations. It shouldn’t become arrogant because of its strength and think they enjoy privilege in face of the law. All enterprises and entrepreneurs must abide by the law and make adjustments when they hit the boundaries of the law. This must be a norm that all enterprises adhere to without any dispute.
Alibaba is being investigated because of alleged monopolistic practices including forcing businesses to choose one platform between two competitors. It should not only sincerely cooperate with relevant authorities and departments regarding the investigation, but also conduct self-examination in other areas. The entire industry also needs to learn lessons from Alibaba’s case and conduct self-reviews, taking proactive steps to adjust suspected monopolistic practices. I believe these are healthy responses that the internet economic circle should have.
Alibaba has witnessed relatively smooth development in the past. It suddenly became the first leading internet company that is pointed out to have serious problems. Public opinion has also slid significantly toward the company. All these have posed a comprehensive test for the company’s management.
What will be affected include not only illegal practices, but also motives behind such practices. Obviously, it will be beneficial to take this opportunity to reconsider and figure out the relationship between companies and society and the logic of companies’ growth.
Alibaba’s rapid development through its unique approaches demonstrate not only the strong capability of Chinese society to incubate successful companies, but also Chinese society’s broad-mindedness. However, Alibaba needs greater ability to realize a more optimized connection with the country’s governance.
I believe the supervision toward Alibaba will bring about a series of adaptations and further interaction, and the result will be shaped by the interaction process. I sincerely hope the process will be a positive and highly constructive one with the interests of society and the public being more protected. Enterprises like Alibaba will also be able to find more certainty in a more reasonable economic order, which will make their businesses more sustainable.
The prosperity of China’s private enterprises has generated a group of talents. Entrepreneurs are China’s important assets. But after all, China has only implemented a market economy for several decades, the entrepreneurs need to continue to accumulate wisdom and experiences in addition to exploring how to better fulfill the mission society entrusts to them.
Frankly speaking, most entrepreneurs have taken a risky and difficult road. They have won extensive respect from society and many of them have been regarded as idols by young people. Of course, no one is perfect. Some entrepreneurs also have weaknesses in their personalities. I would like to offer some suggestions though I am an outsider.
Entrepreneurs, especially successful ones, will have considerable dominance over social resources with the accumulation of their wealth, which will lead to their expanding influence. This is a kind of power in essence. Successful entrepreneurs should have a healthy view on power. The power they have must be used to contribute to society and increase social welfare. Except for their personal consumption supported by law, the power shouldn’t be used to seek other private interests and desires unrelated to the operation of businesses.
China is not a capitalist country. In Western nations, wealth can lead to power, even dominant power. But China is following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, under which, capital is the driving force for economic development, but shouldn’t be the source for power. Therefore, when some entrepreneurs display their non-business-related influence in a high-profile manner, this will have conflict with the basic principles governing our society. For instance, some entrepreneurs use their influence to question social governance, when they or their family members demonstrate a lifestyle not in line with socialist morality or even engage in controversial icon worship, or form an opinion faction. This will stir up controversy. They should act with restraint and caution in these regards.
Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the common goal of the Chinese people across the country. Private entrepreneurs always stand at the forefront of the market economy and are an important force for China to fulfill its national vision. Because of their position, they have in fact borne more responsibility than ordinary people to develop a suitable national path. They shouldn’t act as a force that may cause divergence from the path at any time. Instead, they should be providing a unique impetus for the country to advance in the right direction.
With more resources at their disposal, they have a bigger obligation to participate in social construction. They should realize this and have the desire to contribute more to the public and society. This is worth advocating for.
Over 10 years ago, I talked to a friend who ran a business. He regrettably said his enterprise was too small to create much employment for the country or pay more taxes. I was really moved by this. I believe most Chinese entrepreneurs have a strong sense of social responsibility. After they manage to make their businesses bigger, what they do will be not for themselves. They have to be responsible for their employees and contribute to the growth of China’s national strength. Our entrepreneurs and society should have enthusiasm and take action to actively promote each other’s interests.
I sincerely hope that the investigation and supervision of Alibaba and its affiliate Ant Group will promote overall harmony among enterprises, entrepreneurs and Chinese society.
The author is editor-in-chief of the Global Times.