• Wednesday, Dec 08, 2021
  • Last Update : 10:15 am

Report: Jack Ma missing after criticizing China

  • Published at 05:19 pm January 4th, 2021
Jack Ma
File photo: Alibaba Group co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma speaks during a news conference, in Hong Kong on June 25, 2018 Reuters

He has not been seen in public since October 2020

Chinese billionaire and technology giant Alibaba founder Jack Ma has been claimed by various international media outlets to be missing. 

He has not been seen in public since October 2020, according to reports on multiple influential media outlets - including the Daily Mail, the Times of India and The Sun – on Monday.

Ma’s presence comes under discussion for standing aside from one of his own talent shows. 

He was supposed to be the judge in the final of the show called “Africa's Business Heroes” but was replaced by an Alibaba executive in the November final, UK’s Telegraph reported.

Though, an Alibaba spokesperson said Ma was unable to take part on the judging panel “due to a schedule conflict,” according to Financial Times.

A few days before the recording, Jack Ma criticized China's technology regulator and state-owned banks.

A search of Jack Ma's social media account showed no activity after October 10.

Ma, the totem of China's entrepreneurial brilliance, recently finds himself up against a Communist leadership seemingly intent on hacking back his empire and issuing a lesson that no one is bigger than the party.

Ma, the most recognizable face in Asian business with a fortune estimated at around $58 billion, has already faced the ignominy of having the world's biggest-ever IPO spiked by Chinese regulators days before its launch.

The November share sale was set to see his wealth bulge to more than $70 billion in a record-breaking listing of the group's Ant Group financial arm in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

But Chinese regulators abruptly pulled the deal, over what initially appeared to be concerns about the company's reach into the finances of hundreds of millions of Chinese people.

It was a brutal public rebuke to Ma, who was then called in for dressing down by regulators and has since evaporated from the spotlight he normally so ably commands.

Now China's poster boy for enterprise finds himself again caught in the glare of the Communist-run state, with the announcement of an anti-monopoly probe into Alibaba, the tech giant he founded, and the summoning of Ant Group by regulators.

It is another public relations catastrophe for Ma, a Communist Party member, whose rags-to-riches backstory has come to embody a self-confident generation of Chinese entrepreneurs ready to shake up the world.

Charismatic, diminutive and fast-talking, Ma was cash-strapped and working as an English teacher when someone showed him the internet on a 1990s trip to the United States - and he was hooked.

He toyed with several internet-related projects, before convincing a group of friends to give him $60,000 to start a new business in 1999 in China, then still emerging as an economic giant.

Alibaba was the result, an e-commerce empire founded from his bedroom in Hangzhou and which started an online shopping revolution and grew into a fintech titan.

The company changed the shopping habits of hundreds of millions of Chinese people, and catapulted Ma into the global limelight.

"The first time I used the internet, I touched on the keyboard and I find 'well, this is something I believe, it is something that is going to change the world and change China'," Ma once told CNN.

In 2014, Alibaba listed in New York in a world-record $25 billion offering.

Ant Group, in which Ma is the largest shareholder, is now the world-largest digital payments platform, claiming 731 million monthly users on the Alipay app. 

But there are fears it reaches too deeply into the pockets of ordinary Chinese with its micro-loans, investment and insurance products.

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