Jack Ma has sparked global attention for not showing up for more than two months.
As the calendar for 2021 is turned over, Jack Ma, China’s richest man worth tens of billions of dollars, has raised many eyebrows recently. He has not been seen since he gave a speech at the Shanghai Financial Summit on Oct. 24 last year, blasting government shortcomings such as unreasonable government regulation and a single financial channel. The always high-profile man did not even appear on his self-titled TV show, nor did he appear to welcome the New Year. Some U.S. financial analysts say that even if a Chinese company is delisted by the U.S. stock exchange, it will not shake up the stock market, but Jack Ma will cause a shock if he really does not know where he is going.
Some say Ma is the “missing in action” MIA (Missing in Action).
Ma was given a “yellow card” by the government after he “spoke out” at the summit in October.
On Nov. 2, he was interviewed by the Communist Party’s financial regulator as the founder of Alibaba’s sister company Ant Group.
On Nov. 3, the authorities called off Ant Group’s IPO, said to be the world’s largest, which was supposed to take place simultaneously in Shanghai and Hong Kong on Nov. 5. The Wall Street Journal said it was Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, who personally ordered Ant Group’s IPO to be stopped after Ma’s speech.
In November, Ma did not attend the second final of his self-titled “African Entrepreneur Competition. Just weeks before the finals, Ma had reportedly said on social media that he “couldn’t wait to meet the participants. He was present at the first final and served as a judge.
On Dec. 14, Alibaba Investment Ltd, a subsidiary of Alibaba, and two other companies were fined 500,000 yuan each by the government for allegedly violating anti-monopoly laws.
On December 24, the State Administration of Market Supervision opened a case against Alibaba Group Holding Limited for alleged monopolistic practices such as “two-for-one”. The “two-for-one” refers to the restriction by e-commerce platforms on merchants to open stores on other platforms at the same time. The market value of Alibaba’s shares evaporated to more than US$110 billion on the same day.
On the same day, the portal NetEase published an article stating that Jack Ma was borderline charged.
On December 30, Alibaba’s Tmall, as well as two other e-commerce companies, were again fined 500,000 yuan each by the Communist Party’s State Administration of Market Supervision.
On Jan. 4, Bloomberg News quoted people familiar with the matter as saying that Ma had been advised by authorities not to leave China in early December.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote on Jan. 4 that Ma, one of China’s richest people, had “disappeared.
In addition, the New York Times, Deutsche Welle, the Financial Times, the BBC, and countless social media and self-publishing outlets have recently called out the world’s most famous person, who has never been keen on “diving in”, in their own voices.
Gobi Dong, an economist and current affairs commentator, told the Voice of America that there have been many rumors about Ma’s whereabouts recently, and even that he has left China: “But I don’t believe any of that. It’s almost impossible for a figure like Jack Ma to escape. Even if there is more ability, more wealth, once the person is in China, it is impossible to escape. If he is able to leave, there is only one scenario, that is, the Chinese Communist Party wants him to leave.”
Ma and Alibaba, Deutsche Welle quoted analysts as saying, are just the beginning of Beijing’s tightening reins on the increasingly powerful local tech giant.
According to current affairs commentator I.W. Deng, “The CCP’s increased anti-monopoly efforts and restraint of capital in Internet finance and the reshaping of regulatory authority …… are also a way to prevent Internet giants from challenging the CCP’s power, with political considerations included.”
Zhang Xin, a professor of economics at the University of Toledo Rong Retirement, told the Voice of America, “Ma Yun is not just because of the e-commerce issue. Alibaba does have a monopoly, as is the case around the world, but that can be solved by government regulation. Ma wants to provide financial services, to enter the financial sector, the government said there are financial risks, in fact, this can also be resolved through regulation, just like the U.S. banks insured FDIC. But if it rises to the political level and the fear that private enterprise constitutes a challenge to Communist rule, then the economy will be buried and sacrificed along with it.”
The New York Times said, “In China, Jack Ma is a byword for success. The English-teacher-born Internet entrepreneur is the richest man in China. He founded Alibaba, a rival to Amazon. After Trump was elected president in 2016, Ma was the first Chinese celebrity he met.”
At the summit in October, Ma criticized China’s anachronistic thinking of “aligning with the world,” noting that “what you have to think about is how to align with the future”; he also said that China does not have a mature financial ecosystem.
He said that China’s financial pawnshop thinking is serious, and China’s big banks are unhealthy: “Big banks are more like big rivers and arteries of blood, but we need lakes, reservoirs, small streams and rivers, and all kinds of swamps today, and without these ecosystems, we will be flooded when flooded, drought when drought …… what we want to build is a healthy financial system.”
Ma also said that China needs “policy experts”, not “document experts”, “making policy is a technical job.”
Ma’s comments offended the government, Gobbledon said.
In December last year, qq.com published an article titled “Counting Ma’s ‘Ten Deadly Sins'”. According to the article, Ma’s ten sins include monopoly status, damaging commercial real estate, impacting social security mechanisms, affecting fiscal revenue, causing employment pressure, disrupting policy order, raising logistics costs, and challenging the financial order, among others.
Some netizens say this makes Ma sound like a “ten evils” in the eyes of the rulers.
Speaking to the Voice of America, Gobbledon said Alibaba’s online shopping model not only benefits consumers, but also, “I think online purchasing has actually stimulated a significant increase in physical production and led to an expansion of logistics. E-commerce benefits the real economy, and the only thing that has been reduced is the possession of stores. Chinese business happens to be overwhelmed by the storefronts, and after housing prices were speculated to huge heights, it caused a huge increase in costs. The wall that overwhelms China’s real economy is the house prices that have been pushed to super high.”
According to Prof. Zhang Xin, in the process of economic development, there are often new models that emerge, which will certainly impact the old ones; the industrial revolution leads to the replacement of manual workshops by big machines, and the workers, owners and the whole industry of manual workshops take a big hit. This is the law of economic development. As for how to keep the social balance, this is the work the government should do.
Zhang Xin told Voice of America: “The development of e-commerce has led to traditional stores being hit and their survival being threatened, which involves the issue of transformation, and the transformation process of those who are negatively impacted and those who gain the benefits of development, their interests can be balanced. China in addition to Alibaba and Jingdong also do a great job, which is also the world is facing the problem. The government should step in to absorb or reduce the negative impact of the transformation, balance social welfare and share the dividends to various groups.”
Some netizens said that the “ten deadly sins” are really “very far from the truth”. For example, it says that Jack Ma “destroys commercial real estate“, thus “impacting the social security mechanism”, so that “the desire to buy a store for retirement is lost”, so that “the social security mechanism needs to be restructured as a result”. The social security mechanism needs to be reorganized as a result”, which seems like a sin to be added.
Ma is a member of the Chinese Communist Party and has endorsed in high profile the practices of the Chinese government on June 4, 1989; he has also sung red songs, worn red army uniforms and paid homage to the town of Gutian, just like “a red capitalist”.
The BBC says: “Political and business relations is a mandatory course for Chinese entrepreneurs”; The New York Times says Ma is playing “Chinese retirement”.
Gobbledon said: “Ma has been playing dumb for a long time to protect his own interests. He has been left with a fluke mentality, five times to retire, thinking that a few times to retire can be mixed up. This is also the tragedy of most private entrepreneurs, unwilling to discard the illusion …… Ma finally saw Wang Qishan’s attitude, like facing being slaughtered pigs see the butcher’s knife, must be open to come out desperately screaming a few times.”
Gobbledon said that in addition to the rhetoric, Ma’s Alibaba is indeed also too fat, “the Chinese Communist Party holds the mentality of raising fat pigs, raising large and then slaughtered, for all industrial and commercial, private enterprises, is such a communist set-up. Allow you to encourage you, the ultimate goal is to destroy you …… Now the economy is short of money, state-owned enterprises a large number of debt defaults, get rid of a Ma Yun can save a large piece. Ma Yun’s fate has already been decided, that is, on the side of the Communist Party has lost paradise.”
As early as September 14, 2019, Sina Finance reprinted a People’s Daily commentary article titled “People’s Financial Review: there is no such thing as the Ma Yun era, only the Ma Yun in the era.”
The article said that on September 10, Jack Ma fulfilled his promise of 10 years ago and announced his stepping down as chairman of the board of directors of Alibaba as expected, triggering public opinion, “However, only individuals who have seized the opportunities of the times are likely to bring out their maximum potential, whether it is Jack Ma, Ma Huateng or Musk, none of them can. Therefore, blind admiration is difficult to bring success, recognize the relationship between personal success and the times, find the right direction and put into action, is the fundamental to achieve success.”
Netizens commented, “This is clearly to Ma Yuns thanks to the government to thank the party rhythm.”
Alibaba, founded by Jack Ma in 1999 and listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Hong Kong Stock Exchange respectively, is, however, a self-described “authentic Beijing company. Alibaba’s portfolio includes about 20 companies, including Taobao, Tmall, Ali Cloud Computing, Alipay, Ant Financial Services, Flying Pig and Youku. One of them, Taobao and Tmall, has exceeded three trillion yuan in total merchandise transactions in 2015. This makes Alibaba Group one of the largest online retailers in the world.
The Economist magazine called Alibaba “the world’s greatest bazaar.”
Gobbledon said that the way forward for Alibaba is that the Chinese Communist Party will transform it into the ownership model it needs, and that “Ma and Ma’s line of business will be largely eliminated from the game.
The Financial Times said Ma’s fortune has fallen by $11 billion in the past three months, from a whopping $61 billion in October 2020 to $50.6 billion currently.
Ma has no shortage of fame and fortune. After he worked hard to achieve business success, he also achieved entertainment success along the way. Where he is currently is a mystery. However, Fox News says that according to Alibaba insiders, Ma is currently “hunkered down, not missing and not arrested.