It is an unusual disappearance. Jack Ma, Chinese billionaire and founder of the Alibaba site, has not been seen in public since the end of October, as reported by the Financial Times. He had just delivered a speech at the end of October in Shanghai in which he seemed to accuse regulators of restraining fintech innovation. He also boasted of the stock market record that his company Ant – an online payment giant – was preparing to beat, after Alibaba’s on Wall Street in 2015 ($ 25 billion).
The state media, unmanned by Chinese power, did not fail to criticize this statement. Several events then followed: the Ant group saw its IPO blocked in November, which caused a fall in Alibaba (listed on Wall Street) shares. At the end of December, Chinese stock market regulators even asked Ant Group to drastically change its business model to refocus on its original online payment business. According to the New China News Agency, Ant Group, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Alibaba, has been “strictly prohibited from unfair competition” and is called upon to reform its “illegal” financial activities. Alibaba was also under investigation during the same period.
A takeover of the party
Importantly, on January 3, Jack Ma was absent from the show he created, titled Africa’s Business Heroes. He was replaced by a collaborator. The official excuse? A “timing problem”. But as France 24 notes, “Jack Ma’s name has also been deleted from the site ofAfrica’s Business Heroes, and the promotional clip of this reality show no longer makes any reference to the founder of Alibaba ”.
This disappearance – for the moment temporary – clearly resembles a desire of the Chinese authorities to tighten the screws vis-à-vis those who are too critical of the regime. It would not be a first: in 2019, Arte had devoted a report to these rich Chinese businessmen who disappeared from the radars suddenly. “The Chinese Communist Party wanted to create rich people to develop the country. But now he is afraid of us, afraid of the power that money can give, so he makes us disappear ”testified at the time a Chinese billionaire exiled in the United States.