Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma Has Allegedly Gone Missing

by Aakash Sharma

Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma Has Allegedly Gone Missing

January 4, 2021

Jack Ma is suspected to have gone missing after criticizing the Chinese Govt

Questions about Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s whereabouts are emerging as Alibaba faces an investigation from the Chinese government. Jack Ma is currently under scrutiny by China’s government and has reportedly not been viewed in public for some weeks.

It is worth noting that Ma has never disappeared from the public eye for this long a period before. He maintained a regular presence in business circles and global business forums, many times as the Chinese business fraternity’s face. As per the latest news, Ma was recorded to appear for his talent show- Africa’s Business Heroes– filming, but was replaced by another Alibaba executive. The Chinese e-commerce goliath told Financial Times that Ma couldn’t oblige the show with his presence due to a dispute in calendars.

Ma's Critique of the Chinese Business Leadership

If someone has to go to jail, I'll go.

The scrutiny came down massively on him after Ma had openly reprimanded the Chinese regulators and had called the country’s banks “pawnshops.” “Mortgages and guarantees are for a pawnshop, but if we go to heights in relying solely on collateral assets, certain businesses will pledge all of their assets, and the stress [for them] is enormous,” he had said in October 2020.

On October 24, Jack Ma, the man behind China’s e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, delivered a speech in Shanghai at the Bund Summit, a conference advertised as “an open, pragmatic and internationally powerful financial high-end communication program.” In such a setting, 56-year-old Ma seemingly felt designated to yield a few acumens from a vocation that has seen him take Alibaba from a group of fewer than 20 people—started in his flat in the seaside city of Hangzhou in 1999—to a tech behemoth that pulled in $71.985 billion in income in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.

According to Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper, Ma, who is personally worth $48.2 billion, prudently hedged his address. He characterized himself as “a moderately retired man, sharing the non-professional aspects of a non-professional” and acknowledged that his beliefs might be “immature, inexact, or even laughable.” Gently, he tossed in a couple of quotes from China’s strongman President Xi Jinping. But as he started calling the audience—reported by Reuters as “the noble and the ideal of China’s financial, regulatory and political institution”—to recognize the need for the amelioration of the country’s financial system, he went a bit too far.

His cater-corner chiding of Chinese regulators for stifling innovation struck the wrong strings. He said that Chinese banks to a “pawnshop mentality” given that banks, similar to the informal moneylenders of yore, still relied on a practice of “pledges and collateral.” This wasn’t all wrong, Ma granted. “In the old days,” he pointed out, “a pawnshop was an excellent idea. Had it not been for modifications such as contracts and collateral, there would be no financial organizations today, and the Chinese prosperity would not have emerged over the past 40 years to such a point presently.”

Ma, who once was the wealthiest person in Asia, has seen his net worth tumble. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Ma has dissipated over $11 billion of his wealth in the last three months – from the highs of $61 billion in October 2020 to $50.6 billion currently.

Billion Dollars (Jack Ma's Net Worth)

Affairs With the Government

The listening cadres and government representatives in the October event were enraged by Ma’s observations. Subsequently, on November 2, Ma was ordered by Chinese officials for interrogation. The next day, the $37 billion IPO of Alibaba’s fintech division Ant Financial—promoted as a record-breaking venture—was nixed by China’s securities watchdog despite it earlier having received a green light. By late December, regulators had commanded Ant Group to restructure its enterprises to adhere to new anti-monopoly customs, stripping billions off its estimate.

Chinese bureaucrats have directed Ant Group to restructure its businesses and return to its ‘payments origin.’ News also indicate that the regulators had earlier pushed Alibaba for its practice where “merchants are compelled to sign restricted cooperation pacts restricting them from offering goods on rival platforms.”

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Alibaba founder Jack Ma performs onstage during the company’s 20th anniversary gala at Hangzhou Olympic Center Stadium on Sept. 10, 2019, in Hangzhou, China. PHOTOGRAPHER: VISUAL CHINA GROUP

Securing the offense of the CCP

If Ma has indeed soured his relationship with the Chinese leadership and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), then he has descended a long way in doing so. Being something of a global industry personality, he was tacitly consigned by the CCP to pitch a modern, go-ahead image for its businesspeople. Standard policy visions like ‘Made in China 2025′and ‘China Standards 2035′, which endeavor to write the edicts of next-generation commerce and technology, read like divisions from the playbook of a man whose Ant Financial claims to have over 1.3 billion users of its Alipay mobile payment service worldwide.

Yet, it’s explicit that the CCP below President Xi will not tolerate any challenge to its power. Granted a slowing Chinese economy and growing geopolitical headwinds, Beijing is apprehensive about methodical financial risks and increasing debt. This is no time to be beckoning, as Ma did, for a loosening of the conformity. And just as ostensibly unassailable titans of real estate, finance, and show-biz previously found, China’s tech victor is learning that obedience comes first in Xi’s China.

There is no so-called [Ma] era but only an era that has [Ma] in it.

- People's Daily (CCP Mouthpiece ) Tweet

Ma considered the limelight to be an appetizer, performing in rock performances, costuming as Michael Jackson, and starring in a kung fu film. But boasting is anathema to China’s colorless apparatchiks and may well have affected authorities to guide common opinion abreast him. Ma’s support of China’s strict “996” work culture—9am to 9 pm, six days a week—began some to criticize him as a “capitalist bloodsucker” and quote Marx in criticism.

Jack Ma's de facto Recluse from the Market

Officially, at least, Ma had given up the chairman position of Alibaba’s in October and was purportedly devoting himself to humanitarianism. During the coronavirus pandemic, his Jack Ma Foundation gave PPE to 150 countries, including 500,000 testing kits and a million masks to the U.S., affirming, “we join hands with Americans in these difficult times.” Other outlines include nourishing education in China and entrepreneurship in Africa.

Maybe Ma’s philanthropic refocus led him to fumble the hardening inclination of the government system. Just a month ere his Shanghai address, the CCP advertised new guidelines on how private companies help the Chinese nation now that “risks and difficulties have increased significantly” from the increased private economy.

Of course, this runs counter to the duplicated and pained attempts by Chinese-owned tech giants such as Huawei, Tencent, TikTok, and Alibaba to describe themselves as autonomous of government control in the light of ascending U.S. influence. Tenacious reports describe that Ant Financial might be compelled to pass a large chunk of shares to the state to torpedo its global enlargement goals.

The government is warning companies that, at the end of the day, we're the ones who execute the regulations, we're the ones who dispense the licenses. And if you overlook, then you may find a complete operation of your business doesn't get permitted, or your IPO gets blocked, or whatever we require to do just to make certain you know who's the parent and who's the child.

- Mark Natkin, Founder, Marbridge Consulting Tweet

It’s a dubious tightrope that risks not only pitching a pall over investor reliance but also threatening entrepreneurs’ eagerness to take risks—notably in the liminal zones of trade, where the rules are poorly set, but the payoffs may be most vital. China didn’t have clear regulations on third-party returns services when Ma first began Alipay. For example, the chances of meddling in financial services were plain to him.

China's Famous Disappearances

There are others, too, who have gone missing after getting on the wrong side of the Chinese government. Most prominent names include actress Fan Bingbing, three Canadian citizens, Gene-editing scientist He Jiankui, Interpol chief Meng Hongwei, award-winning photographer Lu Guang, ink-splash girl Dong Yaoqiong, and Christian church leader Wang Yi, among many others.

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