International firms catch flak in China

Targeting profitable foreign firms operating in China at a time of slowing economic growth seems counterproductive and is a reversal from the past.

It has been a rough few years for multinationals in China, with some of the world’s most recognisable brands pilloried by state media, probed by regulators and prosecuted in the nation’s courts. A spate of anti-trust cases last year caused a good deal of consternation among foreign executives on the mainland. The market, they say, still struggles with the concept of a level playing field.

Foreign companies are vulnerable to open-ended investigations by ministries and watchdogs due to regulatory ambiguities. The enforcement of regulations is spread across several government bodies, with “multiple agencies with overlapping functions pulling in different directions,” according to China 2030, a collection of policy recommendations by...

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