China: How to explain the “Disappearance” of Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba?

The fate of Jack Ma, founder of digital giant Alibaba and international Chinese tech star, has become a hot topic of debate on social media and in the media this week. The multibillionaire has not been seen in public for many weeks, after the blocking of his stock market ambitions by the Chinese regulator. Behind the scenes is a power struggle launched by President Xi Jinping against the political faction that has supported the success of the conglomerate of Chinese “Jeff Bezos”.

Where’s Jack Ma? The one who is considered as the Chinese double of the creator of Amazon usually multiplies on television sets, social networks and the stands of major international forums. However, we have not seen it since the end of October. The 56-year-old former English teacher, who has made his start-up an international juggernaut in e-commerce and online payment, is nevertheless a member of the Communist Party, which dubbed him an official “ model  ” entrepreneur  for his “  contribution to China’s digital economy  ”. His empire, Alibaba, now accounts for nothing less than $ 86 billion in annual sales in e-commerce, cloud and logistics.

But where is Jack Ma? Did the Beijing authorities make him disappear? After the accumulation of articles in recent days on the unknown location of the founder of Alibaba, the entourage of the star entrepreneur from China has let it be known that he had not ”  disappeared  ” but was ”  low profile  ” until further notice. What happened ?

Too critical a speech

The Alibaba boss was last seen publicly at the end of October during a speech at a financial forum in Shanghai. A very critical speech which shocks the Beijing government. Jack Ma indeed accuses Chinese regulators of stifling innovation in the financial industry. ”  We should not use the management method of a station to regulate an airport,” he asserts. We cannot regulate the future with yesterday’s means.  The sanction is not long. Days after Ma’s speech, regulators brutally block the listing of Ant Group, the financial arm of Alibaba. The operation promised to raise 34 billion dollars in the places of Hong Kong and Shanghai. In other words, the world’s largest IPO.

According to authorities, Jack Ma and two officials of the Ant group were summoned to a meeting on November 2 with the Chinese regulator. President Xi Jinping is said to have intervened in person to stop the titanic stock market transaction.

Anti-trust operation

The Beijing authorities are now seeking to reduce Jack Ma’s technological and financial empire and, potentially, to acquire a stake in his various businesses, according to the Wall Street Journal .

At the same time, Alibaba is now subject to anti-trust proceedings by Chinese market regulators. The latter are  investigating in particular allegations of abuse of a dominant position in the e-commerce sector. Alibaba reportedly forced industry players to work only with its platform.

Dangerous links with rival Xi Jinping clique

However, are we really dealing with a pure dismantling operation like the one that threatens Google in the United States ? Not sure. Alibaba and its financial arm Ant have been at the heart of the clan war that agitates the Chinese Communist Party for several years. This political battle corresponds to the “  fight against corruption  ” launched by Xi Jinping in 2013, and whose object is a vast purge against what the Chinese call “  the old regime  ”, that is to say the sprawling network of power of the ex-president Jiang Zemin.

According to Canadian sinologist  Alex Payette, a specialist on the Communist Party in China,  the electronic payment sectors, just like telecommunications, information technology or even aerospace, have a common denominator: Jiang Mianheng, the son of ancient Chinese number one. Jiang Jr. is the architect of China Telecom, China Mobile and many other state-owned tech gems in the Middle Kingdom. However, among the investors of the Ant group, there is an investment company named Boyu, directed by Jiang Zhicheng, the son of Jiang Mianheng.

Thus, Alibaba and Ant represent ” the old regime “, the money of the family of Jiang Zemin, arch-enemy of Xi Jinping. The issue of financial stability then seems to come at the right time for the Chinese number one, who is still trying to get rid of the other factions. With only one goal in mind: to get rid of all opposition to ensure his maintenance in power after the end of his second term in 2022. And too bad if it involves a ” political cleansing ” which risks weakening one of the champions. of China against the American Gafa (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon).

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