Fall and disappearance of Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire owner of Alibaba

Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire who became an idol for many, is missing in the middle of a campaign by the Chinese government against him. Like Icarus in Greek mythology, he flew at a height that became excessive in the eyes of the Party.

His rise, told in the first person on YouTube that has been seen by millions of people, recalls how he was rejected over and over again in all kinds of jobs and educational centers. In 1995, after several bankruptcies and being a teacher at a college in the city of Hangzhou, he founded in his apartment together with 17 friends Alibaba, a meeting point platform for Chinese suppliers and foreign customers, a connection that many wanted, but not they knew how to perform. The company that for many is the largest company in the world in online commerce, grew and covered different aspects, from financial services to artificial intelligence. Its IPO in New York on September 19, 2014, with Ma dressed in pants, a navy blue shirt and a black jacket, achieved the record of the largest offer up to that moment, valued at USD 25 billion.

Jack Ma at the World Economic Forum, also called the Davos Forum to be held on Mount Davos, Switzerland.

In these three decades Jack Ma had become the most extravagant billionaire in China. A regular participant in the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Fortune Global Forum and appearing in costume at different events, he even acted in a martial arts movie. He was long revered as a national hero – the personification of Chinese courage and entrepreneurship, the living spirit and symbol of his rise to prosperity. The same government used Jack Ma and Alibaba as propaganda for China’s great technological achievements.

In September 2019, 55-year-old Ma retired as CEO of Alibaba, although he remains the largest individual shareholder with a stake close to 5%. In his words, in order to dedicate himself to philanthropy, the environment and the training of new entrepreneurs: “between 50 and 60 years of age you have to train the next generation”. His disappearance was noted when he did not appear on a recording of Africa’s Business Heroes, a talent show for television entrepreneurs that he created and for which his passion was known. The show’s producers have already removed Ma’s photograph from the website.

His problems began when his absolute loyalty to the party was called into question when he made a speech at the Bund Summit in Shanghai. In his remarks to the meeting, which included China’s most powerful financial regulators, a host of top central banks, and executives from some of the country’s largest state banks, Ma bluntly mocked Chinese regulators for being too much. risk averse, stifling innovation and clinging to a “pawnshop” mentality in overseeing China’s financial system. “The current financial system is the legacy of the industrial age,” Ma declared in the now infamous speech. “We must create a new one for the next generation and the youth. We must reform the current system. “

Jack Ma at the Bund Summit in Shanghai whose speech sparked his downfall to the Chinese government

The Party’s reaction was swift. The officials summoned Ma and senior executives from Ant Group, China’s leading mobile payments platform and an Alibaba spin-off company, to Beijing for questioning. Days later, with just 48 hours to go before Ant’s initial public offering on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges, where Ma is the majority shareholder, Beijing vetoed it. The Wall Street Journal reported that the orders to delist Ant came directly from Chinese President Xi Jinping. The double listing that promised to receive USD 37,000 million, a new record in business listing that, had it been achieved, could have surpassed the first Chinese state banks.

Since then the government has started a campaign against Alibaba. The State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) warned it was concerned about the pricing and data management practices employed by Chinese tech giants and fined Alibaba and Tencent Holding’s television and e-book production subsidiary China Literature. for their conduct make corporate acquisitions. On December 23, SAMR announced a formal antitrust investigation by Alibaba.

Chinese regulators think Ant is too powerful. In addition to criticism for taking rivals out of the market and disregarding consumer rights, they have proposed that Ant Group limit itself to its original business, mobile payments, and forgo more lucrative businesses in consumer loans and mutual funds. Some analysts warn that the group could disband entirely.

Jack Ma in one of his quirky moments, Alibaba’s 20th anniversary celebration in Hanqzhou, China

China’s communist leaders increasingly view China’s tech moguls with suspicion, fearing that they have accumulated too much power and cannot be counted on to support the Party’s goals. Xi over the past few years has sought to strengthen the Communist Party’s control over private companies in China, installing more party officials within these companies, issuing a series of detailed guidelines reminding companies that they must serve the state, and depriving private companies. rebellious companies of the credit of the state banks. Jack Ma, in his success, forgot the existing limits in China, his location, future and legal situation is uncertain.

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