Beijing is considering elevating the Antimonopoly Bureau to a vice-ministerial level agency amid a widening regulatory crackdown on Big Tech, Reuters reported Wednesday.
The antitrust watchdog currently sits within the State Administration for Market Regulation, which has frequently made headlines as it imposed record-breaking fines on tech giants this year. The new plan is to make the bureau a vice-ministerial level agency and rename it to the National Antimonopoly Bureau, sources with knowledge of the plans told Reuters.
This restructuring plan follows Chinese president Xi Jinping's mid-March push to enhance oversight of the so-called "platform economy" and "enrich the antimonopoly regulatory force."
This is "the biggest news in Chinese antitrust history," antitrust expert Angela Zhang, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, wrote on Twitter. "This new regulatory restructuring will be a significant boost to Chinese antitrust enforcement."
Legal experts have long been skeptical whether the current, thinly staffed Antimonopoly Bureau of the State Administration for Market Regulation would be able to tackle the mounting antitrust cases in the tech sector.
Once the central antitrust watchdog is granted higher authority, the agency could see its staff increase to at least 100 from 35, Zhang said. The reformed bureau will also oversee three separate agencies: one to oversee mergers and acquisitions, another to conduct investigations and a third to draft competition policies.