From "Daddy Ma" to "bad capitalists," why China changed to Jack Ma
The leader of Alibaba paid to drive Beijing out. But the change in mindset also reflects an increasing wealth gap and decreased young people's chances.
The success of Jack Ma in China is synonymous. The internet entrepreneur turned into the English teacher is the richest individual in the world. The closest thing Amazon had to a peer and competitor was Alibaba he created. In the end, Ma was the Chinese leader with whom he met after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.
This popularity was for "Daddy Ma," a rock star, as some people called him online. In a 2017 short film filled with top Chinese film stars, he portrayed an incomprehensible kung fu master. He sang the Chinese pop diva, Faye Wong. He made a painting, with Chinese top artist Zeng Fanzhi, sold for $5.4 million at a Sotheby auction. The story of Daddy Ma was one to imitate for China's young and ambitious.
But public opinion has stirred recently, and Papa Ma has become the guy who loves to hate in China. A writer quoted Ma as "10 deadly sins." In his stories of him a growing number of people left commentaries saying that Marx is saying, "Workers of the world, unite!" Instead of Papa, people have begun to call him the "Son."
This decrease has come with the Chinese government experiencing growing difficulties. Chinese officials said they launched an antitrust inquiry into the influential e-commerce firm Alibaba he co-founded and still has substantial control over.
At the same time, officials of the government continue to circle Ant Party, the giant fintech that Ma had spun out of Alibaba.
Last month, Ant's proposed blockbusters quashed its initial public offering less than two weeks after Ma punished financial regulators for being obsessed with mitigating risks and accused China's banks of operating as pawn shops by borrowing only from collateral-possessors. On Thursday morning of the announcement of the Alibaba antitrust investigation, four regulatory bodies said officials would meet with Ant to discuss new supervisory steps.
The rich hate complex of China
On its surface, Ma's change in the public image is primarily the product of rising criticism of his business empire by the Chinese government. A look under the surface reveals that both the Chinese Government and the entrepreneurs who have pushed the country out of the dark economic ages of the last four decades have been forming a deeper and disturbing pattern.
In the midst of the post-coronavirus surge in China, more people in China seem to have the chance that they like Ma enjoyed disappearing. Though China has over US$ 150 million of its citizens a month or so, China has more milliardaires than the United States and India combined. Although consumption decreased by about 5% on a national level in the first 11 months of this year, China's consumption of luxury is projected to increase by almost 50% in 2019.
Young university graduates, even with US degrees, face minimal prospects of employment and low salaries. The first-time buyers now find housing in the best cities too pricey. Young people, like Ma's Ant Party, who borrowed from a new generation of Internet lenders have increasingly resented debts.
The long-term discontent of the wealthy, also known as the rich hate resort, has long been bubbling under the surface of China's entire economic success. With Ma, revenge has arisen.
The article was published in a widely shared Social Media article, "A la lantern," a well known lynching slogan in the French revolution, which reads more than 100,000 Twitter on the messaging and social media app WeCh. "An outstanding multimillionaire like Jack Ma is definitely going to be hung on the lamppost!" "A la lanterne!"
This frustration is evidently more than prepared for the Communist Party. It could lead to trouble for entrepreneurs and private companies with Chinese leader Xi Jinping who admire loyalty and servility above all else.
The party pledged to intensify anti-Trustee initiatives and avoid "the disorderly expansion of capital." at the annual leadership meeting last week that set the tone to the country's economic policies for the next year.
Some entrepreneurs say the animosity towards Ant and Ma raises concerns about the country's basic course.
Fred Hu, the founder of the Hong Kong investment company Primavera Capital Group, said that, "You can either have total control or you can have a dynamic and creative economy. "But it's doubtful you can have both."
His business is an Ant Group investor, and sits on Ant's board of directors.
Xi made no secret of what his ideal capitalists were meant to be. Ten days after the fiasco at the Ant IPO, the artist went to the museum exhibition dedicated to the more than a century ago industrialist, Zhang Jian. Zhang helped create Nantong and opened hundreds of schools to his hometown. In Xi era, business leaders were also to put their country ahead of business, the message went.
Xi referred to Zhang as a role model and urged them to class patriotism as their highest quality in a July meeting with the business community. (Xi said that Zhang died bankrupt, supposedly not.)
Ma has its own high-profile philanthropic programs, such as the rural education initiatives and the award to promote entrepreneurial talent creation in Africa. But in several other aspects, Zhang differs considerably from the flamboyant technology contractor.
He has long enjoyed a better reputation than his colleagues in production, property and other sectors whose edge can stem from near government relations, environmental indifference or the abuse of employees.
He is so renowned for making audacity and questioning authorities. 2003 saw the creation of Alipay, which was later merged into the Ant Party, which placed his business empire at the core of the world of finance dominated by the state.
Now it is more likely that these brave statements are true.
"Given what has happened, eventually Ant will have to be controlled or even majority-owned by the state," said Zhiwu Chen, Hong Kong's Business School economist.
It is too early for regulators to say how far Ma and big technology are going. But some market-oriented people are worried that the country is drifting in the harsh 1950s when the party abolished the class of capital with a language which contrasted capitalist tendencies with impurities, defects and weaknesses.
Some of the vocabulary that Eric Jing, the Ant Chair, recently used evoked the period for these people. He informed us that the organization "looking into the mirror, finding out our shortcomings and conducting a bodily checkup." At a conference on December 15.
One of the world’s largest e-commerce companies is under investigation by China.
Beijing is accusing Alibaba of monopolistic behaviour.
It is yet another blow for the company’s founder, Jack Ma, as government regulators attempt to rein in his expanding business empire.