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Alibaba Group

China's conflicted goals: Freer markets, more party control

China's ruling Communist Party is expanding its role in business even as it promises freer markets and support for entrepreneurs on the eve of President Xi Jinping's second five-year term as leader.

Party officials are tightening their control over state-owned enterprises and want a voice in how some foreign companies are run. State companies that dominate energy and other fields are being made even bigger through mergers. Some are forming ties with private sector success stories such as tech giants Alibaba and Tencent to draw on their skills.

Beijing's conflicting goals are raising concerns that leaders might put off changes needed to reinvigorate a cooling economy that...

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