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China gets serious about antitrust in cyberspace

Tech majors like Alibaba told they cannot force customers to 'take sides'

A record penalty slapped on Alibaba Group Holding earlier this month kicked off China's clampdown on anti-competitive activity in cyberspace, where a few titans increasingly dominate Chinese consumers' daily lives -- from online shopping to mobile payments to food delivery to car-hailing.

After years of tolerating online platforms' extraordinary expansion into underregulated markets, China is now determined to rein in unfair competition, authorities say. Even though Alibaba's executives say they do not expect the government's 18.2 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) fine to have much of an impact on the e-commerce giant's business, industry insiders say this is only an initial deterrent to be followed by more regulatory scrutiny and civil lawsuits.

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