|From: Glenn Petersen||12/25/2020 5:07:19 PM|
|Why China Turned Against Jack Ma|
New York Times
December 24, 2020
That success has translated to a rock-star life for “Daddy Ma,” as some people online called him. He played an unconquerable kung fu master in a 2017 short film packed with top Chinese movie stars. He has sung with Faye Wong, the Chinese pop diva. A painting he created with Zeng Fanzhi, China’s top artist, sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $5.4 million. For China’s young and ambitious, Daddy Ma’s story was one to emulate.
But lately, public sentiment has soured and Daddy Ma has become the man people in China love to hate. He has been called a “villain,” an “evil capitalist” and a “bloodsucking ghost.” A writer listed Mr. Ma’s “ 10 deadly sins.” Instead of Daddy, some people have started to call him “son” or “grandson.” In stories about him, a growing number of people leave comments quoting Marx: “Workers of the world, unite!”
This loss of stature has come as Mr. Ma is facing increasing trouble with the Chinese government. Chinese officials on Thursday said they had opened an antitrust investigation into Alibaba, the powerhouse e-commerce company that he co-founded and over which he still holds considerable sway.
At the same time, government officials are continuing to circle Ant Group, the fintech giant that Mr. Ma had spun out of Alibaba.
Last month the authorities quashed Ant’s planned blockbuster initial public offering, less than two weeks after Mr. Ma publicly castigated financial regulators for being obsessed with minimizing risk and accused China’s banks of behaving like “pawnshops” by lending only to those who could put up collateral. On Thursday, on the same morning that the Alibaba antitrust investigation was announced, four regulatory agencies said that officials would meet with Ant to discuss new supervision measures.
On its surface, the shift in Mr. Ma’s public image stems in large part from the Chinese government’s growing criticism of his business empire. A look beneath the surface shows a deeper and more troubling trend for both the Chinese government and the entrepreneurs who powered the country out of its economic dark ages over the past four decades.
A growing number of people in China seem to feel the opportunities that people like Mr. Ma enjoyed are disappearing, even amid China’s post-coronavirus surge. While China has more billionaires than the United States and India combined, about 600 million of its people earn $150 a month or less. While consumption in the first 11 months of this year fell about 5 percent nationally, China’s luxury consumption is expected to grow nearly 50 percent this year compared with 2019.
Young college graduates, even those with degrees from the United States, face limited white-collar job prospects and low wages. Housing in the best cities has become too expensive for first-time buyers. Young people who have borrowed from a new generation of online lenders, like Mr. Ma’s Ant Group, have debts they increasingly resent.
For all of China’s economic success, a long-running resentment of the rich, sometimes called the wealthy-hating complex, has long bubbled below the surface. With Mr. Ma, it has emerged with a vengeance.
“An outstanding people’s billionaire like Jack Ma will definitely be hanged on top of the lamppost,” an online commentator wrote in a widely circulated social media post, referring to the famous lynching slogan in the French Revolution, “À la lanterne!” The article was liked 122,000 times on the Twitter-like Weibo platform and read more than 100,000 times on the messaging and social media app WeChat.
The Communist Party seems more than willing to tap into that resentment. This could mean trouble ahead for entrepreneurs and private businesses under Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, who values servility and loyalty above everything else.
In an annual leadership meeting last week that set the tone for the country’s economic policies for the coming year, the party vowed to strengthen antitrust measures and prevent “the disorderly expansion of capital.”
Some businesspeople say that the hostility toward Ant and Mr. Ma makes them wonder about the fundamental direction of the country.
“You can either have absolute control or you can have a dynamic, innovative economy,” said Fred Hu, founder of the investment firm Primavera Capital Group in Hong Kong. “But it’s doubtful you can have both.” His firm is an investor in Ant Group, and he sits on Ant’s board.
Mr. Xi made no secret about what his ideal capitalist should be like. Ten days after the Ant I.P.O. debacle, he toured a museum exhibition devoted to Zhang Jian, an industrialist who was active more than a century ago. Zhang helped build up his hometown, Nantong, and opened hundreds of schools. Business figures in the Xi era, the message went, should also put their nation ahead of business.
In a July meeting with the members of the business community, Mr. Xi pointed to Zhang as a role model and urged them to rank patriotism as their top quality. (Mr. Xi reportedly didn’t mention that Zhang died bankrupt.)
Mr. Ma has his own high-profile philanthropic projects, like several initiatives in rural education and a prize to help develop entrepreneurial talent in Africa. But in many other respects, the flamboyant technology entrepreneur differs greatly from Zhang.
He has long enjoyed a better reputation than his peers in manufacturing, real estate and other industries whose edge may derive from cultivating close government ties, ignoring the environmental rules or exploiting employees.
He is as famous for making bold statements and challenging the authorities. In 2003, he created Alipay, which later became part of Ant Group, putting his business empire square in the center of the state-controlled world of finance.
“If someone needs to go to jail for Alipay, let it be me,” he told his colleagues at the time.
He sometimes subtly dared the government to punish his defiance. Regarding Ant’s business, he said on multiple occasions, “If the government needs it, I can give it to the government.” His top lieutenants repeated the line, too.
At the time, few people took these remarks seriously. People who know him well considered them a very “Jack thing” to say. “Giving Alipay to the country? Jack Ma is just saying,” read the headline of a 2010 opinion piece in the China Business News newspaper.
Now the chances that those bold statements become real have heightened. “Given what has happened, eventually Ant will have to be controlled or even majority owned by the state,” said Zhiwu Chen, an economist at Hong Kong University’s business school.
The pressure on Mr. Ma signals a shift in how the Chinese government regulates the internet. It has long censored content, but in other ways it has adopted a laissez-faire approach. Regulations were spare. No state-run companies were involved. And at the beginning, China’s internet industry was small.
Today, Alibaba and its archrival, Tencent, control more personal data and are more intimately involved in everyday life in China than Google, Facebook and other American tech titans are in the United States. And just like their American counterparts, the Chinese giants sometimes bully smaller competitors and kill innovation. You don’t have to be a member of the Communist Party to see reasons to rein them in.
Instead of disrupting the state system, the companies have cozied up to it. Sometimes they even help the authorities track people. Still, the government has increasingly seen their size and influence as a threat.
China’s tech companies are not the country’s biggest monopolies, however. Those are owned by the state, which dominates banking and finance, telecommunications, electricity and other essential businesses.
“China Mobile is a monopoly. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is a monopoly,” wrote Zhang Weiying, a well-regarded Peking University economist, in 2017, “because without the government permission, you can’t enter these industries.”
The article was reposted under several social media accounts last week but was quickly censored.
It’s too early to tell how far the regulators will go in reining in Mr. Ma and big tech. But some pro-market people in China worry that the country is drifting toward the hard line of the 1950s, when the party eliminated the capital class, using language that compared capitalist leanings to impurities, flaws and weaknesses.
To these people, some of the language recently used by Eric Jing, Ant’s chairman, evoked the era. At a conference on Dec. 15, he said the company was “looking into the mirror, finding out our shortcomings and conducting a bodily checkup.”
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|From: Glenn Petersen||12/27/2020 12:20:45 PM|
|China orders Ant Group to rectify businesses|
PUBLISHED SUN, DEC 27 202011:23 AM EST
-- The People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, summoned Ant executives on Saturday and ordered them to formulate a rectification plan and an implementation timetable of its business.
--The statement said that Ant Group lacked a sound governance mechanism, defied regulatory compliance requirements and engaged in regulatory arbitrage.
-- Chinese regulators last month halted Ant’s $37 billion stock debut in Shanghai and Hong Kong over regulatory changes.
Chinese regulators have ordered Ant Group, the world’s largest financial technology company, to rectify its businesses and comply with regulatory requirements amid increased scrutiny of anti-monopoly practices in the country’s internet sector.
The People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, summoned Ant executives on Saturday and ordered them to formulate a rectification plan and an implementation timetable of its business, including its credit, insurance and wealth management services, the regulators said in a statement Sunday.
The statement said that Ant Group lacked a sound governance mechanism, defied regulatory compliance requirements and engaged in regulatory arbitrage. It also said that the company used its market position to exclude rivals and hurt the rights and interests of consumers.
The meeting came after Chinese regulators last month halted Ant’s $37 billion stock debut in Shanghai and Hong Kong over regulatory changes, and comes just days after China announced an anti-monopoly investigation of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, which owns a 33% stake in Ant Group.
The orders from regulators could limit Ant Group’s expansion and throw its lucrative finance businesses into disarray.
Ant Group, which started out as a payments services for Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao, has since expanded to offer insurance and investment products to its hundreds of millions of users in mainland China. Jack Ma, the founder of both Alibaba and Ant Group, is one of China’s richest and most prominent entrepreneurs.
Regulators ordered Ant Group to establish a financial holding company and hold sufficient capital. They also said that Ant Group should return to its payments origins, enhance transparency around transactions and prohibit unfair competition, while improving corporate governance and ensuring that it complies with regulatory requirements for its businesses.
Ant Group said in a statement Sunday that it would comply with regulatory requirements and enhance risk management and control, and that a working group would be set up to make the necessary rectifications.
“We appreciate financial regulators’ guidance and help,” the statement said. “The rectification is an opportunity for Ant Group to strengthen the foundation for our business to grow with full compliance, and to continue focusing on innovating for social good and serving small businesses.”
The scrutiny of Ant Group and Alibaba comes as China closely examines the influence of the country’s internet sector.
Last month, China released draft regulations to clamp down on anti-competitive practices in the industry, such as signing exclusive agreements with merchants and the use of subsidies to squeeze out competitors.
Alibaba and a company spun off by Tencent Holding Ltd. were fined this month for failing to apply for official approval before proceeding with some acquisitions.
Last Tuesday, regulators met with executives of Alibaba and five other major Chinese internet companies and warned them not to abuse their dominance to drive out competitors through use of exclusive contracts, predatory pricing and other tactics, according to a statement by the State Administration of Market Regulation.
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|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (745)||12/27/2020 3:26:57 PM|
|From: Julius Wong|
|How The Chinese Use Illegal Online Gambling And Tether To Launder Over $1 Trillion Yuan|
Last month, another gig job platform backed by Ant Group, China’s dominant online payment service provider, was investigated for suspected money laundering activities. Beijing Bujiao Technology Co. Ltd. was suspected of having falsely issued more than 1.3 billion yuan of value-added tax invoices. Some of the company’s money laundering activities involved cross-border gambling, Caixin learned.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||1/4/2021 8:26:51 AM|
|Where is Jack Ma? Alibaba's billionaire founder is reportedly missing following China's crackdowns on his companies|
January 4, 2020
-- Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is suspected missing, Jessica Yun reported for Yahoo Finance.
-- Per the report, the Alibaba and Ant Group founder has not been seen publicly in more than two months and he was abruptly replaced as a judge on the African talent show he founded.
-- Chinese regulators have been cracking down on Ma's business empire in recent months, halting Ant Group's IPO in November and launching an antitrust investigation into Alibaba in 1December.
-- The clampdowns came after Ma publicly criticized China's banking rules in October.
-- Ma, who has a net worth of $50.6 billion, was China's richest man until recently. Visit
Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and Ant Group, is suspected missing, Jessica Yun reported for Yahoo Finance.
The 56-year-old businessman has not been seen in public for more than two months, per the report.
Ma has been in the spotlight recently as China has cracked down on his business empire. In late December, Chinese regulators launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba, the country's biggest e-commerce company that some refer to as "the Amazon of China." And in November, China had introduced a series of new regulations that put a halt to what would have been the massive initial public offering of Ma's fintech company, Ant Group.
The new rules came weeks after Ma criticized China's financial regulatory system at a conference in Shanghai in October. At the conference, Ma reportedly dismissed the global financial regulations used by China as "an old people's club" and said, "We can't use yesterday's methods to regulate the future."
Blair Silverberg, CEO of debt-financing startup Capital told Business Insider's Katie Canales in November that the new regulations were introduced " so the government can assert its supremacy over Jack Ma."
In November, Ma was replaced as a judge on the African talent show he founded, "Africa's Business Heroes," the Financial Times reported. The talent show did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment, but an Alibaba spokesperson told Business that Ma could no longer be on the judging panel for the show's finale — which was filmed in November but has not yet been released — "due to a scheduling conflict."
"We do not have anything to add beyond that," the spokesperson said in response to questions about Ma's whereabouts.
Ma stepped down as chairman of Alibaba in 2019.
Until recently, Ma was China's richest man with a fortune that reached more than $60 billion. Ma's net worth has however taken a $12 billion hit over the past two months as China has tightened rules for the financial technology industry. Today, Ma is worth $50.6 billion, making him the fourth-richest person in China, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
As news of Ma's suspected disappearance has spread, an August 2019 prediction about Ma by another billionaire Chinese businessman has been recirculating on social media.
In the video interview, Guo Wengui, who fled China as a fugitive in 2014 and claims to be a whistleblower exposing corruption in the country, said that in the next year, Ma would likely end up in jail or dead because China wants to "take back" Ma's lucrative Ant Group.
Last week, the Chinese government ordered Ant Group, which owns China's largest digital payment platform Alipay, to scale back its operations after expressing concerns that its corporate governance was "not sound."
A spokesperson for Ant Group did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment for this story.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||1/7/2021 7:34:51 AM|
|Alibaba and Tencent shares fall after report says they could be added to U.S. blacklist|
PUBLISHED THU, JAN 7 20216:45 AM EST
Sam Shead @SAM_L_SHEAD
-- The shares of Alibaba and Tencent saw heavy falls after a report, citing several people familiar with the matter, suggested the Trump administration could be about to add the Chinese tech giants to a U.S. blacklist.
-- The conglomerates saw their shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange slide by around 4% after the report from The Wall Street Journal said that officials were considering prohibiting Americans from investing in the firms.
-- If they do get added to the U.S. blacklist, then American investors won’t be able to trade their stocks from Jan. 11.
The shares of Alibaba and Tencent saw heavy falls on Thursday after a report, citing several people familiar with the matter, suggested the Trump administration could be about to add the Chinese tech giants to a U.S. blacklist.
The conglomerates saw their shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange slide by around 4% after the report from The Wall Street Journal said that officials were considering prohibiting Americans from investing in the firms.
The U.S. government blacklisted 31 Chinese companies in November over concerns that they support Beijing’s military through an executive order. U.S. state and defense officials have been discussing expanding the executive order so the blacklist includes more companies, according to anonymous sources cited by the WSJ.
When the Hong Kong stock exchange closed, Tencent’s share price was down 4.69% to 568.5 Hong Kong dollars, while Alibaba’s share price was down 3.91% to 221 Hong Kong dollars.
If they do get added to the U.S. blacklist, then American investors won’t be able to trade their stocks from Jan. 11. Those that already own shares in the companies would have until November to offload them.
Trump signed the initial executive order shortly after losing the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden and it is already having consequences. The New York Stock Exchange confirmed on Wednesday that it plans to delist China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration moved to ban Chinese payments apps including Alipay and WeChat Pay, which are linked to Alibaba and Tencent respectively.
In December, the U.S. added Chinese drone company DJI and Semiconductor Manufacturing International to a trade blacklist. The U.S. Commerce Department said the action against SMIC “stems from China’s military-civil fusion (MCF) doctrine and evidence of activities between SMIC and entities of concern in the Chinese military industrial complex.”
Alibaba’s battles extend beyond the U.S. and to its home turf, where Chinese regulators have recently launched an antitrust investigation against the company.
Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and CEO, is keeping a low profile and hasn’t been seen in public since last October after he appeared to criticize the country’s regulators.
Alibaba and Tencent did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||1/20/2021 7:50:22 AM|
|Alibaba founder Jack Ma appears for the first time since crackdown on his tech empire|
PUBLISHED TUE, JAN 19 202111:58 PM EST
UPDATED WED, JAN 20 20211:46 AM EST
-- Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listed stock was up 5% on news of his reappearance.
-- In a video posted on Chinese social media, Ma addressed rural teachers as part of one his charity foundation’s initiatives.
-- In October, Ma made some comments that appeared critical of China’s financial regulator leading to the IPO of Ant Group being pulled. Since then, he had been laying low, a source told CNBC.
GUANGZHOU, China — Alibaba founder Jack Ma has emerged after weeks out of the spotlight, which sparked speculation about his whereabouts as his companies face increased regulatory scrutiny.
Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listed stock was up over 8% on news of his reappearance.
In a video posted on Chinese social media, Ma addressed rural teachers as part of one his charity foundation’s initiatives. The annual event, which is usually hosted in the resort city of Sanya, sees the Jack Ma Foundation celebrate the achievements of rural teachers who are awarded cash support.
“Jack Ma participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative
event on January 20,” a spokesperson for the Jack Ma Foundation said.
In October , Ma made some comments that appeared critical of China’s financial regulator.
It was one of the reasons attributed to Chinese regulators pulling the plug on what would have been a record-setting initial public offering of Ant Group, the financial technology giant Ma founded.
Since those comments, Ma had not been seen, leading to speculation he had gone missing. But a source told CNBC this month that he was just laying low.
Chinese authorities have cracked down on Ma’s technology firms Alibaba and Ant Group.
In December, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation opened an investigation into Alibaba over monopolistic practices. Beijing is also finalizing details of a wide-sweeping anti-monopoly law.
Regulators also asked Ant Group to rectify its business and comply with regulatory requirements. China is pushing through new rules on so-called microlending, which included provisions such as capital requirements for technology firms offering loans.
Beijing is concerned about the power of its tech companies that have managed to grow, largely unencumbered, over the past few years and have become key parts of everyday life in China.
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|To: TimF who wrote (751)||2/12/2021 8:39:52 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Jack Ma Spotted Playing Golf in Eastern China, Quelling Fears He Was Detained|
FEBRUARY 11, 2021 4:01 AM EST
For months, speculation over Jack Ma’s whereabouts has run rampant. Maybe the embattled billionaire had fled to Singapore, some posited. Or he had been placed under house arrest. Or worse yet, he was locked up in a high-security jail.
As it turns out, China’s most talked-about tycoon has been working on his golf game.
The co-founder of Ant Group and Alibaba Group Holding teed off in recent weeks at the Sun Valley Golf Resort, a secluded 27-hole course on the Chinese island of Hainan, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing private information. Located near the island’s southern tip, the course offers expansive greens and stunning views.
It’s the first known Ma sighting since the former English teacher joined a live-streamed video chat with rural educators on Jan. 20. While that appearance helped quiet talk of Ma’s detention, speculation about his standing with China’s Communist Party has continued to swirl as authorities clamp down on his sprawling business empire.
Ma’s golf outing adds to recent evidence that the outspoken entrepreneur has — for now at least — avoided nightmare scenarios like jail time or a government seizure of his assets.
Ant, for instance, has reached an agreement with Chinese authorities on a restructuring plan that could be officially announced as soon as this week, Bloomberg reported on Feb. 3, citing people familiar with the matter. The deal is a first step on what could be a long path back to a revival of the fintech behemoth’s initial public offering, which was halted by regulators in November just days before Ant was due to start trading in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Another positive clue emerged this week from SoftBank Group Corp founder Masayoshi Son, a longtime friend of Ma’s who was among the earliest investors in Alibaba. Son said during SoftBank’s quarterly earnings presentation on Monday that he has remained in touch with Ma. While he didn’t talk about the Chinese billionaire’s whereabouts, Son said Ma likes to draw and has been sharing his sketches via chat.
Alibaba shares rose as much as 1.5% in New York on Wednesday, closing at a more than 10-week high.
Representatives for Alibaba, Ant and the Sun Valley Golf Resort declined to comment.
Before the implosion of Ant’s IPO, Ma’s appearance on a golf course would have attracted little if any attention. The 56-year-old has been steadily relinquishing day-to-day oversight of his businesses in recent years, stepping down as executive chairman of Alibaba in September 2019.
But even in semi-retirement, Ma has rarely stayed out of public view for as long as he did after his now-infamous critique of Chinese financial regulators in October. Within weeks of his speech at the Bund Summit in Shanghai, authorities scuttled Ant’s listing, called for an overhaul of the company and started an antitrust probe of Alibaba.
Ma’s extended absence during the crackdown sent China’s rumor mill into overdrive, with some observers drawing parallels to Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Once Russia’s richest man, the Yukos Oil Co. boss spent about a decade in prison on fraud and tax-evasion charges that he said were retribution for challenging the authority of Vladimir Putin.
Given the opacity of Xi Jinping’s Communist Party, it’s difficult to assess the endgame for Ma with any certainty. He was conspicuously absent from a list of Chinese tech luminaries published by state media last week, a sign his standing with the party remains diminished.
For Hao Hong, chief strategist at Bocom International in Hong Kong, the most likely explanation is that Ma is simply laying low as his companies sort through their issues with regulators. Both Alibaba and Ant have formed special teams to work with the Chinese government, which is still fine-tuning new rules for the country’s fintech and internet industries.
Ma, described as a golfing novice by one observer at the Sun Valley resort, may have ample time to work on his swing.\
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