Where is Jack Ma?
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Picture Courtesy: Financial Times
Founder of one of China’s largest tech firms, Alibaba was a regular feature at major conferences and events with the billionaire and Philanthropist having spoken at the 2017 World Economic Forum, with rumours stating that Alibaba’s expansion of financial services through the recently announced Alipay had been negatively received by the Chinese government as the feature made payments completely possible via phone specifically through QR codes. This incurred that over a billion of the transactions digital and raw cash supplies becoming almost inexistent or redundant. This innovative technology led to the development of Ant Financial services with the public offered shares in its stocks which would have been one of the largest financial investments in history, with regulators blocking the IPO rights and the Chinese government launching a full examination on Alibaba. Ma hardly seen in public for at least 3 months due to his controversial speech and recent remarks which is surprising due to his often composed and highly enigmatic speeches. Alibaba is currently being probed by the Chinese government due to its monopolistic structure with reports from the Wall Street Journal highlighting that Beijing aims to fracture Ma’s business empire and take greater control over his internal operations as determined by Chinese officials and government policymakers. With the financial times highlighting that Ma had not attended the African Talent show that he is the founder of and was replaced on the last showing of ‘’Africa’s Business Heroes’’ produced specifically for entrepreneurs and philanthropists. While Ma is no longer an executive or featured at board level roles at the companies he cofounded after stepping down from being the executive chairman of Alibaba during 2019 of which he is still the largest shareholder, with roughly 5% in value and $25 billion in total wealth. Ma’s last official post being made on the 17th of October 2020 regarding his comments released regarding an education forum in China on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.
With Ma out of the reach of public attention his companies have signalled that they will adhere to the demands pressed by Beijing with Alibaba agreeing to ‘’actively cooperate’’ with antitrust operatives. Moreover, public opinion of Ma within Mainland China has taken a turn for the worse and many active users’ responses to Ma’s last post on the Weibo platform have been discouraging to say the least. This government and public reaction follow suit after Ma clarified his disappointment in China’s intellectual property regulators stating,’’What we need is to build a healthy financial system, not systematic financial risks,’’ going on to emphasise that,’’To innovate without risks is to kill innovation. There’s no innovation without risks in the world.’’ Shortly preceding this event, Chinese regulators summoned Ma and other Ant Group executives for what they termed as,’’regulatory interviews’’ where the IPO was extracted immediately after.
Ma’s current disappearance for any major events and television programs has faced significant spotlight as it follows after what is now dubbed an infamous speech during the Bund Summit in Shanghai, during an event that hosted China’s most powerful financial regulators, senior bankers as well as executives from the nation’s largest state-owned banks, Ma clearly takes a micky at Chinese regulators due to their lack of risk taking, slow innovation and ‘’pawnshop’’ mindset over China’s finances. While neither Alibaba nor Ant have officially released statements concerning Ma’s location or reports on his status. Though his alleged disappearance may be linked to China’s Communist Leaders view of China’s tech moguls with distrust due to far too much power holding and likelihood of adhering to the parties terms.
By Richardt Schoonrad