Ever since Alibaba founder Jack Ma criticized Chinese financial regulation in a speech last October, a regulatory storm has pummeled the country’s entire online financial and consumer sector. The Shanghai Stock Exchange suspended the planned initial public offering of fintech conglomerate Ant Group — an Alibaba affiliate — just two days before its launch, and regulators subsequently launched a massive crackdown on Chinese Big Tech.

While Ma’s speech appears to have been an unforeseeable random event, the logic of Chinese bureaucratic politics made Ant’s IPO debacle inevitable. As I elaborate in my new book, power within the Chinese bureaucracy is fragmented among central ministries and levels of government. A department’s mission and objectives determine its stance and approach toward regulating businesses.

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