The Wall Street Journal, which has disclosed the reasons behind the suspension of Ant Group’s IPO, quoted informed sources again on the 27th, saying that Beijing’s investigation into Jack Ma did not end when Ant Group was forced to rectify the situation, instead, the focus of the review now shifts to a more sensitive part – the investigation into the political bigwigs behind Jack Ma.
Li Qiang (file photo)
In an April 28 report, people familiar with the matter said the investigation focused on Ma’s ties to some key government figures, and that Ma was barred from leaving China until that investigation was concluded and Ant Group completed its business overhaul.
Observers see Ma as a breakthrough for Xi Jinping to further crack down on Jiang’s political enemies in time for the 20th National Congress. But interestingly, the Wall Street Journal piece mentions Li Qiang, the Communist Party’s Shanghai Party Secretary, who is considered a close associate of Xi.
Here’s how the report links the investigation into Ma to Li Qiang: One of the focal points of the investigation is the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Science and Technology Board (STB), as Ma had planned for Ant Group to list on both the STB and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange; this was initially seen as a smart move, after all, the STB was announced by Xi Jinping during the US-China trade war, and local officials and securities regulators were well aware of the importance of the STB to the top leadership, while Li Qiang, who first learned of the STB plan from Xi, is the former governor of Zhejiang province, the stronghold of Jack Ma’s business empire, and has also been supportive of Ali Group and Jack Ma himself.
It is widely believed that as a close associate of Xi Jinping and the “head” of the municipality of Shanghai, Li Qiang is likely to be promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee at next year’s 20th Communist Party Congress.
If the investigation into Jack Ma, Ant Group and the powerful people behind them is directed at Li Qiang, it seems that the Xi camp is in a position to confuse itself. If Jiang’s camp intends to involve Xi’s own family in the investigation by releasing information from overseas, then the intensity of future CCP infighting is expected to escalate.
The report also reveals that the investigation also examined how a series of state funds and large state-owned insurance companies invested in the Ant Group, including China Investment Corporation (CIC) and China Life Insurance Company Limited (China Life), whose mission in the case of CIC is to invest overseas rather than domestically.