Alibaba’s Jack Ma Disappears From Public View. What’s Going On?

Ma’s disappearance comes amidst disagreements with the Chinese government.

Published
World
2 min read
Jack Ma, founder, Alibaba.
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Chinese business tycoon Jack Ma has been "missing" for over two months, giving rise to intense speculation regarding his whereabouts.

The Alibaba founder's disappearance from public view comes at a time when he's had recent run-ins with the Chinese government. Neither the Chinese government nor Alibaba have offered an explanation on his whereabouts.

What Was Last Heard About Jack Ma?

Jack Ma's last post on Twitter was on 10 October. Since then he has been missing from social media. Ma also failed to turn up for the final episode of a TV show, Africa's Business Heros, in which he was to appear as a judge.

Subsequently, his face was also removed from the official website of the show. Alibaba has however said that Ma did not appear on the show due to a scheduling conflict.

Ma has thereafter not been seen in public since a forum in Shanghai in late October where he criticised China’s regulatory system. In the speech, he said that Chinese banks operate with a “pawnshop” mentality.

Ma's latest criticism of the government in Shanghai saw the latter suspending an IPO of Alibaba's affiliate company, Ant Group. The stock market listing was claimed to be the world’s biggest IPO with a value of about $35 billion.

Since the October speech, regulators have clamped down on Ma's companies, launching an an antitrust probe into Alibaba and ordering Ant to shake up its lending and other consumer finance businesses including the creation of a separate holding company to meet capital requirements, reported Reuters.

On Monday, 4 January, Alibaba's Hong Kong-listed shares fell 2.15 percent.

Ma And Chinese Clampdown On Tech Firms

Ma is reported to have a personal discord with Chinese President Xi Jinping. In the October 2020 speech, Ma also attacked the President.

It is said that after that appearance, Ma was given a dressing down and was asked to keep low.

The probe into Alibaba is in line with the anti-monopoly draft rules for online platforms that China unveiled recently. The Anti-Monopoly Law aims to prevent anti-competitive practices in the internet space, including unfair price behavior, below-cost and tie-in sales, and unreasonable trading conditions.

Experts say that this law is expected to hit Chinese internet companies like Alibaba, Tencent, Pinduoduo, JD.com and Meituan.

The step towards Ma, may therefore, be a step towards reining in Chinese internet giants. The technology moguls in the country are increasingly being seen as a threat to the country's "political and economic stability", says an article by The Week.

China also does not allow any foreign social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter to operate. The country's home-made social media platforms have therefore been watered down by the government itself and allowed to grow to exponential heights. It is the same with the Chinese tech firms.

The Week also reports that Ma may have himself agreed to hand over parts of Ant to Beijing as a peace offering before the IPO was pulled.

What China wants to do with its tech moguls, though, is yet to be known.

(With inputs from Reuters and The Week)

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