Sudden visits to Microsoft Corp’s Chinese offices by Chinese government officials herald the preliminary stages of a possible antitrust investigation of the U.S. company by China.
China’s State Administration for Industry & Commerce, which is involved in the administration of business laws, sent representatives to Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou Microsoft offices on Monday.
If an antitrust investigation is indeed under way, this could point to Chinese regulators’ increasing supervision of foreign companies in an effort to preserve local customers and companies.
Relations between U.S. and Chinese businesses have been strained as of late, in part due to Beijing’s use of its price competition rules and anti-monopoly law in relation to global mergers. Data privacy has also been a huge issue, especially after revelations of NSA surveillance; state media organizations are demanding “severe punishment” for tech firms assisting the U.S. government in observing and stealing information from China.
In May, the U.S. Justice Department claimed five Chinese military officials were hacking U.S. companies’ systems in an attempt to steal trade secrets. This has, of course, intensified the tension between the two countries.
Also in May, the installation of Microsoft’s most recent operating system, Windows 8, on the computers of Chinese central government offices was banned. The prohibition remains to this day.
Despite these hurdles, Microsoft will be going forward with the Chinese launch of their Xbox One gaming platform this coming September.