China’s largest e-commerce operator Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴) is planning to offer its fast-growing bargains service on rival Tencent Holdings Ltd’s (騰訊) WeChat (微信) messaging platform in a major concession to regulators seeking to crack down on monopolies in the Internet sphere, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Alibaba and Tencent have long excluded each other’s services from their platforms, creating so-called walled gardens within their ecosystems.
Alibaba is now planning to set up a Taobao Deals (淘寶特價版) lite app on Tencent’s WeChat, and has already invited some merchants to participate, the people said.
Selling through the WeChat super-app means the merchants would be able to accept payments made through WeChat Pay (微信支付), a service that had been barred on Alibaba’s marketplaces, the people said.
Tencent would have to approve the listing of any in-app platforms and it is not clear if the company plans to do so with Taobao Deals lite app.
More than 1 billion people use WeChat, which has evolved beyond chatting to offer ride-hailing, online shopping and payments on its platform.
The move is one of the clearest indications that Beijing’s crackdown on monopolies is taking effect. China’s antitrust watchdog has made regulating Internet firms one of its top priorities, cracking down on monopolistic behavior from alliances that squeeze out smaller rivals to forced exclusive arrangements and predatory pricing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on Monday called for greater oversight of the “platform” economy, signaling that Beijing is preparing to amplify its campaign against its tech giants.
Alibaba and Tencent have created separate fiefdoms within China’s tech industry through their patronages, buying up promising start-ups and investing in others to expand their reach. Only a few companies — TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd (字節跳動) is a notable exception — have thrived without forming an alliance with either giant.
Tencent has previously been accused of barring services by rival tech companies on its platforms. ByteDance last month sued Tencent, alleging its rival had contravened antitrust laws by blocking access to content from Douyin (抖音), TikTok’s Chinese twin, on WeChat and QQ.
Meanwhile, Alibaba’s UC Browser vanished from China’s largest app stores after China Central Television blasted the popular mobile browser along with other services for failing consumers.
App stores run by Huawei Technologies Co (華為) and Xiaomi Corp (小米) were among the local app stores that have since pulled the app, although Apple Inc continues to offer UCWeb for iOS users.
The Alibaba unit pledged to set up a dedicated team to look into the allegations.
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