China’s famous tech magnate and former richest person, Jack Ma or Ma Yun, has reportedly not been seen in public for over two months. Videos predicting his possible detention by the CCP are afloat on various social media platforms.
A $37 billion public offering of Ant Group was scuttled by the Chinese government in November 2020 after a controversial statement by Ma at the Bund Summit in Shanghai criticizing the financial regulations in China that needed to be changed to fuel growth.
The billionaire also fired shots at the banking system talking about their ‘pawnshop mentality’ and likened China’s regulation system of global banking regulations as an ‘old people’s club’. Ant Group had to postpone the IPO dual listing just days before its public announcement as the Shanghai Stock Exchange refused to list the company citing changes in listing requirements set by the China Securities Regulatory Commission.
Jack Ma’s Ant Group has drastically changed China’s banking systems through its mobile payments app- Alipay- a mirror of USA’s PayPal. Product offerings range from consumer loans to insurance and wealth management.
The steady rise of the company can be attributed to its focus on democratizing asset management and lending in a market that reeked of lags in a diversity of wealth management products and dominated by traditional Chinese banks.
Fintech companies like Ant Group have faced no regulatory hurdles as China’s loose financial regulatory framework may have aided the ballooning success of the microlending company.
However, China launched new draft rules to tighten supervision of the market with strategies to clamp down on anti-competitive trade practices of such companies.
China launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba Group late in December 2020 to probe the accelerating monopolistic behaviour and the ‘choosing one from two’ practice under which merchants on Alibaba are made to sign exclusive cooperation pacts to avoid a sale on other platforms. China’s Politburo has vowed to strengthen its anti-monopoly efforts and curb ‘disorderly, barbarian capital expansion’
Jack Ma’s blooming company has been viewed as a direct threat to an authoritarian regime that is used to smaller, submissive and compliant firms that walk the most beaten path. Xi Jinping is said to have personally halted Ant Group’s IPO.
Ma’s disappearance is being linked to his fiery speech that has drawn the ire of conservative Chinese authorities. The famous entrepreneur is known as being media-savvy yet his Twitter handle, with over 612k followers, remains empty since October 10.
He was also supposed to take part in the finale episode of ‘Africa’s Business Heroes’, a show where 10 emerging African entrepreneurs are given a shared $1.5 million grant, but was replaced by Alibaba executive, Lucy Peng. He was also missing from the webpage and a promotional video of the show sparking further doubts on his mysterious disappearance.
The disappearance of Ma comes with no surprise as the dragon nation is known for its draconian policies and inhumane methods of clamping down on any wayward actions that threaten the power dynamics as well as the thick egos of CCP members.
Chinese authorities do not shy away from a chance to showcase their bullying prowess even on global stars like Jack Ma who have softened China’s image which has been dampened by the role the country has played in the spread of the pandemic.