When it comes to China, people suddenly disappearing never to return is nothing new. However, until now, these were mainly politically problematic citizens standing in ruler Ji Xinping’s way, or entire ethnic groups such as the Uighurs. The disappearance of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, however, throws a completely new light on the establishment’s data control over its citizens, fear insiders with in-depth knowledge of the system.
Where is Jack Ma? This question is not only of concern to the employees of his entangled corporate network, which consists mainly of the world's largest trading platform Alibaba, the payment service Alipay, the financial services provider Ant Group, and a large number of other affiliated companies, such as the logistics company, Cainiao. It is also one that its customers and numerous people around the world are asking themselves. The fact is: there has been no sign of life of him for about 2 months, now.
Has Forbes' richest Chinese, estimated at $58 billion in assets, gone into hiding, been arrested, or even killed? Critics of the regime are certain that he has been incarcerated. Other sources indicate that he had been forced to withdraw from public life. Questions from the media to the authorities have not been answered so far.
His “offense”? He criticized Beijing's leadership, accusing the regime of building and running a regulatory system to control the financial sector, that kills off any innovation and thus entrenches the existing status quo.
Report for duty
The reason for Ma's comments was the announced IPO of its financial services subsidiary Ant Group, which financial experts had expected would become the biggest IPO ever. Yet, shortly after Ma's critical speech in Shanghai, the regime halted the plans. The move was explained on the People’s Bank of China's website, where its Deputy Governor, Pan Gongsheng accused financial services provider Ant of failing to comply with the legal requirements for the planned IPO. At the same time, leading Ant managers were summoned to account for their actions to the state auditors. Critics see this as a latent act of intimidation and threat.
Concurrently, Ma himself became the target of social media campaigns, where critics expressed outrage at his wealth. An avalanche of indignation followed, obviously launched or at least tolerated by the state, because the internet is tightly controlled in China, thus pointing to close coordination of the wave by Beijing's state authority.
He had no chance of defending himself, since that was prevented by his disappearance.
Not an isolated case
The Jack Ma case is one of a number of very similar events. In FEB20, property expert Ren Zhiquiang, who was inconvenient for Beijing, was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He had accused Head of State Xi Jinping of lying to his own people during the pandemic crisis. Three years earlier, billionaire Xiao Jianhua met with a similar fate. He was abducted from a Hong Kong hotel by Beijing henchmen, without ever reappearing since. According to investigative sources in China, his extensive fortune has since been divided up among compliant apparatchiks of the Chinese CP.
Does Beijing plan to split up the Ali group?
Local sources suggest that Alibaba, Alipay and Co. may now face a similar fate, as there are unmistakable parallels to Xiao Jianhua's case. He, too, had become very rich and highly influential, and did not hold back with criticism of Beijing's politics. Thus, he became a challenge for Beijing's leaders, especially for dictator Xi Jinping, who is seeking total control of power. The latter did not hesitate to have the children's book ‘Winnie the Pooh’, written in 1926 by British author Alan Alexander Milne, placed on the Chinese index in 2018, because the facial features of the fantasy bear strongly resembled his own.
While the Pooh episode is rather harmless, government access to Jack Ma's Ant Group would have serious consequences. Its asset is not money, but the customer data collected over the years by the app users. This was stored, evaluated, and used to grant credit.
Beijing data leech
The data from the Ant group could be used by the Beijing authority to learn more about the consumption and payment behavior of users. It would be another building block to close a gap that still exists in the totalitarian monitoring and control system.
Whether the state-owned Raiders Attack will also have an impact on the global business of the trading platform Alibaba will soon become apparent. There are no indications of this so far.
Fear of the truth
To avoid negative news about China's involvement in the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chinese government refused to issue visas to a WHO expert group last week. The experts wanted to come to China to investigate the beginnings and outbreak of the Covid-19 crisis in Wuhan. The reason for Beijing's refusal to grant entry was that the pandemic did not come from China but had first broken out abroad. Thus, there was no need for investigations in Wuhan.
We always welcome your comments to our articles. However, we can only publish them when the sender name is authentic.