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Opinion
Tim Culpan

A Didi Nationalization Would Put Xi Firmly in the Driver's Seat

From data to fintech, Beijing is starting to assert itself across industries as the Chinese president marches down a path toward greater state control.

A Beijing state of mind.

A Beijing state of mind.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Just three months after going public in New York comes the real possibility that Didi Global Inc. could fall under Chinese state control. We shouldn’t be surprised. 

Beijing’s municipal government has proposed taking a stake in the Chinese ride-hailing giant through its Beijing Tourism Group and other companies based in that city, Bloomberg News reported Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. While the deal may never come to pass, the very fact that it has been considered shows how the $45 billion company really is in the doghouse. Among its alleged infractions is the fact that it went ahead with a U.S. initial public offering despite pushback from the Cyberspace Administration of China.

Nationalization of an otherwise free-wheeling and robust private sector is only in its incipient stages, but the government of President Xi Jinping is marching down that path as a way to protect privacy, control data and rein in profligate billionaires. Ant Group Co. may have its credit-scoring business fall under state control while Beijing ByteDance, a local unit of news and video aggregator ByteDance Ltd., already had a government representative installed on its board. There’s more to come.