The Chinese government is extremely wary of anything that could pose a challenge to one-party rule—including the growing power of tech giants. Regulators announced Thursday they're cracking down on Alibaba, an e-commerce giant known as "China's Amazon," and its financial services sister company Ant, formerly known as Alipay, the Wall Street Journal reports. Both companies were founded by billionaire Jack Ma, who's often compared to Jeff Bezos. The government said antitrust regulators are investigating Alibaba's "choose one of two" policy, which bars business partners from dealing with its rivals, reports the AP. Last month, Chinese regulators blocked Ant's $35 billion IPO.
Analysts say Beijing's crackdown mirrors recent US efforts to limit the power of tech giants. "China wants to get out in front, rather than deal later, with more hardened consequences, as the US is struggling to do," Peter Fuhrman, CEO of investment bank China First Capital, tells the Journal. "A concern would be that market power may potentially morph into political power." The move follows years of rumors that President Xi Jinping was planning to act against the flamboyant and outspoken Ma. The last straw was apparently a conference in October, where Ma strongly criticized regulators for stifling innovation. "In Chinese culture, if you are a rich guy and you have very strong economic power and social influence, then you are politically dangerous and you need to keep a very low profile to be safe," economist Gary Liu tells the New York Times. (More Alibaba stories.)