Speculation has swirled around Chinese business tycoon Jack Ma's whereabouts after reports surfaced that the former CEO of Alibaba has not made a public appearance in more than two months.
The Chinese billionaire has also failed to appear in the final episode of his own talent show, Africa's Business Heroes, where another Alibaba executive replaced Jack Ma later on. According to reports, his picture was also removed from the judging webpage and he was conspicuously left out of a promotional video. An Alibaba spokesperson said Jack was unable to take part "due to a schedule conflict".
All these happening at a time when his companies--Alibaba and Ant Group--have increasingly come under scrutiny in China after Jack Ma delivered a controversial speech in Shanghai in October last year. He criticized China's regulation system for stifling innovation and likened global banking rules to an "old people's club". He also called the country's banks "pawnshops".
"Today's financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age. We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system," Jack Ma had in his speech.
"Mortgages and guarantees are for a pawnshop, but if we go to extremes in relying solely on collateral assets, certain enterprises will pledge all of their assets, and the pressure [for them] is enormous," he added.
Almost a week later, Ant Group's initial public offering (IPO), which had already received a go-ahead signal from China's security watchdog, was suspended by Shanghai Stock Exchange. It said that Ant had reported, "significant issues" including the changes in the financial technology regulatory environment.
Regarding the suspension, Mark Mobius, a US veteran investor, said that the Chinese government stepped in because they realized that they had to regulate such companies so that they don't "get too big". He also added that the Chinese Communist Party ruled the government cannot allow these companies which dominate a particular sector and particularly the financial sector.
However, in December 2020, Chinese authorities launched an anti-monopoly investigation into Alibaba and ordered Ant Group to restructure its operations and return to its "payments origin".
Where Is Jack Ma Now?
Jack Ma, who once held the tag of the wealthiest man in Asia, donated millions of face masks to Europe, the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) after the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world. The billionaire is also known for his charitable work. The Jack Ma Foundation focused on areas of education, female leadership, entrepreneurship, and the environment.
But his sudden disappearance at this time raised several questions. Considering CCP's history of silencing people, many Twitter users assumed that the government may have something to do with Jack's disappearance.