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Alibaba and Ant Co-Founder Jack Ma Reappeared After Months Out of Public View, thus ending speculation about the plight of the billionaire dealing with the Chinese regime and the scrutiny it applies to his Internet empire.
China’s most recognizable mogul addressed dozens of teachers in an online conference on Wednesday, part of an annual event he organizes to recognize the achievements of rural educators. His appearance, first reported on a local blog, was confirmed by people familiar with the matter.
Ma’s resurgence may help end persistent rumors about his fate as Beijing conducts investigations into tech giants Ant Group Co. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Additionally, it ordered a review of Ant and launched an antitrust investigation on Alibaba, all in a span of days.
The assault on Ma’s corporate empire encapsulates a broader campaign to curb a generation of Chinese tech giants that Beijing now sees as wielding too much control over the world’s second largest economy.. The flurry of actions against its sister companies revealed how China attacks technology companies, whom it now perceives as a threat to the political and financial stability of the Asian giant.
In recent years, some of the best-known figures in China have “disappeared” after committing crimes or having disputes with the authorities and then reappear months later, as is the case of the popular actress Fan Bingbing, of which nothing was known for several months in 2018 after a case of tax evasion.
Chinese tycoon, founder of the Alibaba group of companies, Jack Ma
However, Ma seems to be trying not to cause any more stir at the heavy and threatening hand of Beijing, which in November forced the suspension of the IPO of Ma’s fintech (‘fintech’), Ant Group, which was to be the largest operation of this type in history.
Be that as it may, Ma, a public figure who does not shy away from cameras or microphones – she recorded her own kung fu movie and appeared on stage imitating Michael Jackson during a company event -, has not wanted to step out of the rumors, and neither have Alibaba nor An officialt.
What both firms have done is to issue several statements in which they ensure that their operations remain normal and that they will collaborate with the authorities.
It should be remembered that Ma left the presidency of Alibaba in 2019 -20 years after its foundation- and that he does not have any executive position in Ant, although he is a majority shareholder of it.
Meanwhile, on Chinese social networks such as the popular Weibo, equivalent to Twitter, his vast legion of followers asks the entrepreneur, popularly known as “Professor Ma” for his professional background in teaching English, to give some clue of his whereabouts, while his detractors brand him as an unscrupulous “capitalist” and assure that “he will be punished”.
And in the Baidu search engine -equivalent to Google- the predictions when writing Ma Yun (his name in Chinese) go through “Jack Ma went into exile“,” Jack Ma sentenced to prison “or” Jack Ma, disappeared “, which shows that speculation is persistent among the citizens of the Asian country.
Alibaba en Beijing, China.
Right before Ant’s failed IPO, Ma raised a lot of controversy in China by delivering a speech in which he harshly criticized China’s strategy of minimizing risks in the financial sector, ensuring that “innovation is always accompanied by risks” and that “the greatest risk is when you try to minimize the risk to zero.”
The richest man in China, who is also a member of the Communist Party (CCP), then reserved some bullets against traditional banks, which he said are run as “pawnshops” to defend the need for alternative financing channels like those offered by Ant through its Alipay platform.
Days after, Chinese regulators called Ma and Ant executives to chapter and published a new, much more restrictive regulation for ‘fintech‘, something that led some experts to speculate that the businessman already knew the content of this new regulation and was trying to force a renegotiation of its terms through public criticism, something not excessively common in such a high-profile figure in China .
In recent weeks, both the state press and senior officials of the regulatory bodies have criticized these financing channels, ensuring that financial innovation is a “double-edged sword” and that some of the companies in the sector, without directly targeting Ant , operate “in violation of regulations under the banner of innovation, causing enormous financial and social risks.”
Before the onslaught of Beijing, Ant decided to lower the credit limits for younger users of its Huabei and Ma virtual card service, according to the US newspaper The Wall Street Journal, and would have offered the authorities to take control of any of the company’s platforms “as long as the country needs them.”
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