No one has heard of Jack Ma since October.
A co-founder of Chinese tech giant Alibaba has even failed to show up in the final episode of ‘Africa’s Business Heroes’, a show he founded and in which he served as a member of the jury.
Instead of Ma, viewers were able to see an Alibaba executive talking Ma’s place in the November final.
Ma’s photo has also been removed from the website of the show.
The objective of the show was to offer a chance for prospective African entrepreneurs to compete for a prize of US $1.5 million.
The last time Ma posted on his Twitter account was in early October when he announced his partnership with Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The three joined forces in order to tackle some of the global climate issues. After that, Ma published his last post on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform, in which he quoted some remarks he made at an education forum in China.
Is Ma’s disappearance accidental?
Ma’s retreat is coincidental with his criticism of Chinese regulators.
At a Shanghai conference in late October, Ma openly denounced Chinese authorities for hindering innovation by being overly averse to risk. He emphasized that the current global banking system operates according to the outdated rules and pledged for its reform.
Obviously, Chinese authorities did not fancy these statements. The first to experience pressure was the Ant Group, a financial affiliate of Ma’s Alibaba.
Just before it was about to start its enormous initial public offering (valued at around $ 37 billion), Ant Group was forced to suspend the offering and undergo restructuring. Ma and Ant Group executives were called to the ‘regulatory interviews’ carried out to inspect the operations of their businesses.
What happened with the Chinese version of PayPal?
As the Wall Street Journal reports, Beijing officials found fault with ‘monopolistic tendencies’ of Ma’s businesses. The plan of Chinese regulators envisions Ant Group shutting down its investment and loan businesses and limiting its operations to a PayPal-like online payment provider it used to be in its beginnings.
According to some estimates, the ultimate objective of Chinese authorities could be to open the door for state banks and other governmental agencies to buy into the shares of the company.
By curtailing Ma’s businesses, Chinese authorities are performing a multi-level infringement of basic liberties.
Not only are they enforcing punishment for the freedom of speech Ma demonstrated at the Shanghai conference, but also are imposing large restrictions on economic freedoms.
Improper government attitude
People being denied to work and receive income from the wide range of Ant Group’s operations are being put in an unnecessary situation of hardship and uncertainty.
By putting pressure on Ma’s businesses, Beijing officials are also depriving Chinese society (and perhaps the world in general) of benefits an expansion of Ma’s businesses could bring about.
These include additional workplaces for people and an additional income from taxes the state could collect as a result of the growth of Ant Group businesses.
It seems that what lies behind all of these actions of the Chinese government is the intention to obtain profits from one of the most successful Chinese enterprises, at the same time limiting the power private companies such as those from Ma’s may obtain in a still communist society.
It remains to be seen to what extent will Chinese authorities succeed in these aims in an ever-changing world of today.