Jack Ma Hiding in Japan With Family; Focus on Alibaba Founder as China Protests Spread

Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma, whose falling out with the Xi Jinping regime nearly destroyed his business empire, has left China and is hiding in Japan, according to reports. The co-founder of Alibaba Group left China along with his family some six months ago and is living in Tokyo, the Financial Times reported.

The fortunes of Ma, who enjoyed unrivaled success in the China's tech scene, came crashing down exactly two years ago when he went missing on the national scene for too long, triggering rumors of arrest, illness and even death.

Jack Ma
Jack Ma makes rare public appearance Wikimedia Commons

Beginning of Jack Ma's Troubles

In December 2020 there were reports that China was mulling the nationalization of Alibaba. Reports said the Chinese government could be working on a plan to nationalize Jack Ma's Alibaba and the Ant Group. China's ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has gone further ahead with the antitrust investigation into e-commerce giant Alibaba. "Based on tip-offs received by the State Administration for Market Regulation in recent days, the administration will be investigating Alibaba ... for suspected monopolistic activities," the government said.

The feared nationalization did not take place, but Beijing's crackdown on the biggest tech group in the country continued unabated. In February, the Ant Group was forced to reach a restructuring agreement with Chinese regulators. As per the agreement, the fintech giant was to be turned into a financial holding company. Under the plan, all of Ant's businesses will be transferred onto a holding company. This includes Ant's technology offerings in sectors like blockchain and food-delivery.

Rising Speculation

At the beginning of 2021 there was intense speculation that Jack Ma had gone missing, and that he may have been arrested by the government.

However, in May, Jack Ma made a rare appearance. The Chinese business tycoon, who had by then lost considerable heft in the aftermath of an ugly faceoff with the Chinese government, made a visit to the Hangzhou campus of Alibaba.

alibaba
Reuters

Ant Group IPO Blocked

In February 2021, the Chinese Communist Party decided to block the initial public offering of the Ant Group. It was reported that Xi believed that the IPO of Jack Ma's Ant Group would have a host of unwelcome beneficiaries besides adding stress to the financial system. Ant Group's complex ownership structure meant that a host of people in Beijing's crosshairs would have gained immensely from what would have been the world's largest IPO.

In March, reports said the CCP government was pressuring Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to sell some of its media assets, including the South China Morning Post published from Hong Kong.

Massive Fine Slapped on Alibaba

And in April, the Chinese government slapped a multi-billion dollar fine on Alibaba. The internet behemoth was hit with a record antitrust fine of $2.84 billion after they found that it had abused its market dominance.

Falling Out With Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping called food waste shameful as he aims to pass the new law Wikimedia Commons

Ma has been in the eye of a storm ever since he criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping and questioned the regulatory practices in the country in 2020. His fortunes started waning after he criticized President Xi Jinping's regulatory policies. Xi Jinping had said in October 2020 that the plan was to make China a more state-controlled economy based on domestic demand. Ma had obliquely criticized the move, drawing ire from the top echelons of the party-led government.

Erosion of Ma's Personal Wealth

Jack Ma's net worth was more than halved in the aftermath of the setbacks in his native country. The tech billionaire once had a net worth of more than $50 billion but as pper the latest reports this has been slashed to around $20 billion owing to the meltdown in the Alibaba stock.

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