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Jack Ma is one of the most successful businessmen in the world. Until recently, he was talkative, too.
The founder of the Chinese giant Alibaba has often appeared in interviews or conferences. In 2017, he spoke at the World Economic Forum.
“Every day is uncertain. The only sure day was yesterday,” he said.
The man who said every day is uncertain now faces an unknown fate. And the man who spoke a lot in public hadn’t appeared in months. He has recently missed scheduled TV shows.
It has become clear that this billionaire does not have the support of the Chinese government.
So what exactly happened to Jack Ma?
Duncan Clark, the Chinese tech investor and consultant who knows a business empire, has a few ideas.
Clark says that while there are some similarities between Amazon and Alibaba, Alibaba is more powerful in some ways due to its financial reach.
Alibaba has created a service called Alipay, which is a system for Make payments over the phoneUsing QR codes. It is now being used for billions of transactions and makes the cash almost obsolete in China.
“Imagine if half of the transactions you make in your day in the US were also controlled by the same company,” says Clark.
Alipay was transformed into a company called Ant Financial. Last fall, Ant Financial was close to an initial public offering of shares – perhaps the largest in history.
And that’s when things started to go wrong. Organizers suddenly IPO suspended, The Chinese government opened An investigation into AlibabaMa has been largely out of public view after criticizing the regulators.
Clark who wrote the book Ali Baba: The house that Jack Ma builtHe knew what for decades.
“Jack Ma is an extraordinary tech entrepreneur because he’s not a tech guy at all,” Clark tells NPR. Morning Edition In an interview. It doesn’t come from wealth or relationships, “says Clark, a former English teacher turned successful entrepreneur. “He’s a great interlocutor, which is weird because the reason we’re talking about him is because he gave a terrible speech … he’s like a little bit that hasn’t gone well at all.”
What did he say in October?
He was speaking at the so-called Bond Financial Summit in Shanghai. He wasn’t the most important person in the room, if you think about the government organizers who were there. And he proceeded to tell them that they were, you know, out of date – that you can’t, for example, run an airport like the way you run a train station.
And then … not only did he initially launch an attack on the global regulatory financial system of banks, but then kind of shifted his topic to China and said … he thinks they’re far from reality and that you, you know, there was a new revolution coming. In fact, it was a call to revolution in the financial sector.
What happened to the IPO after the speech?
It never happened. The stock was supposed to start trading in both Hong Kong and Shanghai. As you know, at first the organizers in China said it was suspended. We haven’t heard any update. Later, the government announced an investigation into this sector, as well as into Alibaba itself and other technology platforms, saying that, as you know, it is time to check if there is monopolistic behavior or excessive force.
So I think behind this pressure on Jack Ma is also a reassurance of the state’s role in the economy, which is a big part of President Xi Jinping’s agenda.
When and where was Jack when was last seen?
I think after he left the stage in terms of public appearances, there hasn’t been one in two months now. What I understand is that he was asked to lie down.
I think they want him back in his box. One wonders if there is a degree of jealousy or annoyance with President Xi or the government in general, that this is, you know, an uncontrollable personality that appears in various places around the world.
To put the obvious, you can be in a profitable position, but also in a very strong position if you are present when the money is trading. And here is this guy who runs this company who is literally everywhere money is traded. Is this a place so powerful that the Chinese government will pay special attention to what that company will do and what its leaders will do?
right. There is talk that maybe the government, you know, will want to acquire a stake or even acquire these basic payment companies because they are so essential for the smooth running of the trade, but also at the social level. And that’s basically what Ant did using this payment mechanism, which incidentally is not very profitable because they don’t make much money on these transactions. But all the data that they were making, then they started selling financial products to these consumers because they know, they can figure out how much they were earning, and how much they were spending. So it’s like perfect transparency. So in the end, yeah, I think the government realized that this power was something they needed … themselves. I think there will be a joint statement sometime by the government, maybe, Jack, personally, to reassure people … but also that they will work together in a face-saving way. But I don’t think an IPO will ever happen and the company will likely collapse.
The audio version of this story was produced and edited by Nina Kravinsky and Scott Salway. Produced by Avi Schneider for the web.