As Jack Ma reappears, is there status quo in China?

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Jan 21, 2021, 11.11 PM(IST)

Jack Ma Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Are the Alibaba founder and Alibaba safe now?

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group, has finally reappeared nearly three months after he went missing from the public eye. 

He was recorded speaking to teachers from rural China and told them, "we will meet again after the epidemic is over". 

Someone posted this 50-second video on Twitter and it went viral instantly.

Also read | Alibaba's Jack Ma makes first public appearance after months via video link

Many people questioned its authenticity and some expressed doubts over its date.

But most people chose celebration over speculation and among them was the Hong Kong stock market. 

Alibaba's shares were up 8.5 per cent and the company's valuation rose by $58 billion. 

His reappearance is being viewed as a big relief for Alibaba and its investors.

Are the Alibaba founder and Alibaba safe now?

The answer lies in history and politics.

The Alibaba founder's previous appearance was at the second Bund Summit in Shanghai on October 24, 2020.

It was on this day that Jack criticised China's regulatory system and state-run banks.

He called them out for behaving like "pawn shops", prompting Chinese authorities to go after him and his empire.

Alibaba's affiliate, the Ant Group was forced to suspend its $37 billion IPO plan.

China had also launched an anti-trust investigation against Alibaba and the company was probed for suspected monopoly practices.

Alibaba's reputation was hit and it lost $140 billion.

Jack net worth too began fluctuating and following this incident, he did not appear in a TV show he was supposed to judge. 

He also missed other scheduled appearances, which led to speculation that Chinese authorities had gone after him. 

It was also seen that the rise of Jack had put him at odds with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China's poster boy

Jack is the poster boy of China and at home, he is being called 'Daddy Ma'. 

Some Chinese youth call him 'Teacher Ma' and he is seen as the 'godfather of entrepreneurship'.

His status is nothing less than a legend in China.

Jack sings, dances, acts, paints, fights and his cult had begun threatening Xi's party-state, a system where only one person can be celebrated.

And the dictator is not happy with him and one headline tells this story: 'There is no Jack Ma era, but a Jack Ma in the era'. 

China is also running an anti-Jack Ma campaign online with reports claiming he is being portrayed as a wolf in sheep's attire and his venture, the ant group being painted as a loan shark.

Chinese consumers are concerned and some investors say they have no clarity as to what is going on in Alibaba.

Jack may not have been jailed like real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang or billionaire entrepreneur Sun Dawu, but his company Alibaba is not out of danger.

Hints

Jack's recent video hints at the entrepreneur buckling under Chinese pressure. 

Take a look at what he told the teachers.

"During this period of time, my colleagues and I have been learning and thinking, and we have become more determined to devote ourselves to education and public welfare. This is not only because I am a teacher myself, but more importantly, education, especially rural education, is of great importance. Today, our country has achieved complete poverty alleviation, comprehensively promoted the rural revitalization strategy, entered a new stage of development, and is moving towards common prosperity."

These comments were published in a Chinese outlet and if they are authentic, then Jack's tone has evidently taken a 180-degree turn since his Shanghai speech.

Analysts say the Chinese govt may takeover Alibaba.

Reports suggest there are four possibilities employees in Alibaba are preparing for: nationalisation, splitting of the business, more restrictions and fines.

Does any of this sound like the end of trouble for Alibaba?

You know the answer.

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