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Matthew Brooker

It's Easy to Make Tech Titans Kneel. Just Ask China

Antitrust cases can take years to adjudicate in the U.S. Beijing can bring monopolists to heel in months. Is there a lesson for Americans here?

Not on Beijing’s turf you don’t.

Not on Beijing’s turf you don’t.

Photographer: Graeme Jennings/Pool/Getty Images

U.S. trust busters could be forgiven for turning green with envy. Their counterparts in China levied a record fine last weekend on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which responded with a display of humble contrition and compliance. Days earlier, the Federal Trade Commission was back in court in Washington, battling to stop Facebook Inc. from having its action against the social-media giant thrown out. It might seem that the home of antitrust could do with some enforcement lessons from Beijing.

Don't bet on it. No doubt there are American officials and politicians — not to mention consumers — who gaze wistfully at China’s ability to check the overweening power of the technology barons in such commanding fashion. The entire Alibaba case spanned less than four months from beginning to end: The State Administration for Market Regulation announced its investigation on Christmas Eve, two weeks after the FTC filed its complaint against Facebook. U.S. antitrust cases can stretch for years, even decades