A Chinese government watchdog has found a US chipmaker guilty of violating anti-monopoly regulations. Foreign businesses have said they are being unfairly targeted by China's new anti-corruption policies.
China's National Development and Reform Commission fined US microchip manufacturer Qualcomm an unprecedented 6 billion yuan (994 million dollars) for violating anti-trust laws.
Qualcomm's chips run most of the world's cell phones. According to the commission, the San Diego-based firm was abusing its market dominance and limiting competition by charging Chinese firms too much to license its patents, which is how the company makes most of its profits. They will only be allowed to continue doing business in China if its changes its licensing practices.
The fine was twice the size of 3 billion yuan bribery penalty levied against British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in September. Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken up the cause of tackling corruption since his appointment in 2012, but some foreign industry members say they are being unfairly targeted.
Business groups say that China is selectively investigating foreign companies in an effort to drive down prices and make the marketplace more open to local firms. Last year, 12 Japanese autoparts companies were fined millions after regulators said they were conspiring to raise prices.
Audi and Chrysler were fined under anti-trust regulations, and Daimler AG Mercedes Benz was also found to have violated the law. Now the government says it is also investigating Microsoft's Windows operating system.
The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China has also expressed worry about the monopoly investigations, saying some companies had told the organization they were being pressured by government regulators to pay penalties without having a proper hearing. According to a survey done by the chamber's US counterpart, more than half of 164 American companies operating in China felt that they were targeted for "selective and subjective" enforcement of anti-trust, food safety, and other rules.
es/uhe (AP, dpa)