On Monday, Alibaba-affiliated Ant Group released its corporate overhaul plan as a result of pressure from Chinese financial regulators. Ant Group promises to "set up a financial holding company to ensure our financial-related businesses are fully regulated."
<p><br></p><p>In November 2020, its record-setting IPO set to list in Shanghai and Hong Kong was suspended two days before Ant Group was set to go public. In <a href="https://www1.hkexnews.hk/listedco/listconews/sehk/2020/1026/2020102600165.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">its prospectus</a>, Ant Group said it "is not a financial institution … We are a technology company." Regulators begged to differ. The risks posed by Ant Group's unregulated online financial activities as well as parent company founder Jack Ma's blunt criticism of China's regulators are what caused the last-minute suspension, according to <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-president-xi-jinping-halted-jack-ma-ant-ipo-11605203556" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">the Wall Street Journal</a>.</p><p>Ant Group's Monday release says it will establish affiliate companies and conduct internal restructuring to ensure its popular online products — such as its personal credit reporting system and its microlending service "Jiebei" — are in compliance with regulations in their respective fields. "Under the guidance of financial regulators, Ant Group will spare no effort in implementing the rectification plan, ensuring that the operation and growth of our financial-related businesses are fully compliant," the release says.</p><p><div class="ad-tag"><div class="ad-place-holder" data-pos="1">
</div></p><p>On the same day, four of China's top financial regulation institutions summoned company executives again to "demand Ant Group pay proper attention to the severe problems in its financial activities and the seriousness of the rectification work," according to <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/fortune/2021-04/12/c_1127321490.htm" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">state news agency Xinhua</a>.</p><p>The rectification plan was announced after news broke last week that Ant Group's parent company Alibaba had been fined a record $2.8 billion for monopolistic behavior.</p>
Salesforce said it will allow some vaccinated employees to return to their offices in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Irvine in May, while leaving open the option for all employees to opt for remote work through the rest of 2021.
<p>The phased return to in-person work in the U.S. will start with vaccinated cohorts of 100 employees at a time, followed by reopening gradually from 20% to 75% capacity to eventually all employees regardless of vaccination, depending on local health data and guidance.</p><p>Tech companies like Google and Facebook have not yet announced vaccine requirements for workers returning to work, making Salesforce unusual in its decision to allow some early return to work based on vaccination status. Among those tech companies that <a href="https://www.protocol.com/return-to-work-calendar" target="_blank">have announced office reopening plans</a>, Google has set the strictest return-to-work policies so far, requiring that most employees be prepared for at least three days a week in their local offices starting in September. </p><p><div class="ad-tag"><div class="ad-place-holder" data-pos="1">
</div></p><p>Salesforce offices in Australia have been open for hybrid work since August 2020, allowing Salesforce to research how employees prefer to work in this new setting. The company found that most employees choose to come into the office on Wednesday or Thursday, rather than Monday, and that co-working spaces are now much more heavily utilized than desk space.</p>
<p>Nuance specializes in conversational AI that can automatically transfer patient information gathered from discussions in the exam room to electronic medical record systems, ultimately cutting down the administrative burden for doctors. It's used in 77% of U.S. hospitals, per Nuance. The company's CEO, Mark Benjamin, will report to Microsoft cloud and AI head Scott Guthrie. </p><p>Microsoft estimates the purchase will increase its potential sales in the health care industry to $500 billion. The company previously announced a partnership with Nuance in 2019 to run its systems on Azure. </p>
That's the new name for the tech giant's spun-off managed infrastructure services business, formerly known as NewCo, per a Monday announcement. The separation from IBM is scheduled to occur by the end of 2021.
On April 8, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a bipartisan bill titled the "Strategic Competition Act of 2021." The legislation outlines a comprehensive plan for the U.S. to compete with China, particularly in the realms of science, technology and infrastructure.
<p>The bill was jointly proposed by Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), and the committee will vote on the legislation on April 14.</p><p>The legislation calls for a strategy to address "China's presence and activities at international standards-setting bodies" in relation to 5G and other mobile telecommunications systems. In fact, an entire section of the bill — Section 209 — is titled "Promoting United States International Leadership in 5G Act of 2021," and it calls for greater U.S. participation in international technical standards-setting bodies. </p><p>The bill also suggests there should be "regulatory exchanges" among partners and allies to prioritize standards-setting in "key economic sectors and emerging technologies." Additionally, the legislation asks for further research into the "scope and scale" of China's engagement with standards-setting bodies, especially as compared to the U.S. and its allies. </p><p><div class="ad-tag"><div class="ad-place-holder" data-pos="1">
</div></p><p>China has made its standards-setting ambitions known with its "China Standards 2035" plan, and Chinese private sector companies have joined in the effort. For example, in one of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba's job postings for a <a href="https://job.alibaba.com/zhaopin/position_detail.htm?spm=a2obv.11410903.0.0.2fc844f6mAcLMH&positionId=113165" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Safety Standardization Expert</a>, the job description explicitly states the company's aspirations, noting that the "eventual goal is to create the de facto standards." </p><p>In the early 2000s, China famously failed to establish its wireless network security standard, <a href="https://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/WAPI-WLAN-Authentication-and-Privacy-Infrastructure" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">WAPI</a>, as the global standard. Learning from their previous mistakes, China has now invested greater resources in collaborating with international standards-setting bodies to get their domestic standards adopted globally. This new legislation suggests that the U.S. Federal government is finally paying attention and taking action.</p>