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· China Is Said to Censor Local Media Coverage of Alibaba Probe
China has ordered its domestic media to restrict their reporting on an antitrust probe into Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. as speculation over the future of one of the country’s largest corporations intensified… The restrictions also apply to Jack Ma, the company’s co-founder… Ma, who hasn’t been seen in public for months, has been advised by the government to stay in the country, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News…
· Alibaba Founder Jack Ma Has Fallen Off The Radar. Here Are Some Clues Why
… The man who said every day is uncertain now faces an uncertain fate. And the man who so often spoke in public has not appeared in months. He recently missed scheduled TV appearances. It's becoming more clear that this billionaire is out of favor with China's government… I think underlying this pushing back on Jack Ma is also a reassertion of the role of the state in the economy, which is very much part of President Xi Jinping's agenda…
China Is Said to Censor Local Media Coverage of Alibaba Probe
o Beijing has previously controlled coverage of sensitive topics
o Alibaba has been targeted in China’s antitrust campaign
By Shiyin Chen and Coco Liu, Bloomberg
January 8, 2021
China has ordered its domestic media to restrict their reporting on an antitrust probe into Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. as speculation over the future of one of the country’s largest corporations intensified, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.
A directive issued by the government’s propaganda arm toward the end of last year ordered news outlets to strictly echo the official line on the investigation into the tech giant and prohibited them from engaging in original reporting and extended analysis or drawing their own conclusions without authorization, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the order hasn’t been made public. The restrictions also apply to Jack Ma, the company’s co-founder, the people said.
Authorities in Beijing regularly issue propaganda directives and guidelines to domestic media organizations to further the government’s policy objectives. The Financial Times earlier reported the directive on Alibaba, saying that it signaled how the issue has become a matter of national political sensitivity.
Billionaire Ma’s empire has become the most prominent target of China’s campaign against the technology industry, which as so far torpedoed affiliate Ant Group Co.’s $35 billion initial public offering and led to an antitrust investigation at his e-commerce giant. Ma, who hasn’t been seen in public for months, has been advised by the government to stay in the country, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News. Several online blogs that speculated about his whereabouts have been censored, according to the FT.
“It’s because the government does not want to see two things: one is people questioning the overreaching intervention, the other is people lashing out at the private sector and discouraging China’s economic engine,” said Fang Kecheng, a communications professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
At one media company, the restrictions were applied to Chinese language outlets, but not its English language version, one person said...
Alibaba Founder Jack Ma Has Fallen Off The Radar. Here Are Some Clues Why
Steve Inskeep, NPR Heard on Morning Edition
January 8, 2021
Jack Ma is one of the world's most successful business people. And, until recently, he was also quite talkative.
The founder of China's giant company Alibaba often turned up in interviews or at conferences. In 2017, he spoke at the World Economic Forum.
"Every day is uncertain. The only certain day was yesterday," he said.
The man who said every day is uncertain now faces an uncertain fate. And the man who so often spoke in public has not appeared in months. He recently missed scheduled TV appearances.
It's becoming more clear that this billionaire is out of favor with China's government.
So what, exactly, happened to Jack Ma?
Duncan Clark, an investor and adviser on China's tech sector who knows Ma's business empire, has some ideas.
Clark says that while Amazon and Alibaba have some similarities, Alibaba is in some ways more powerful because of its financial reach.
Alibaba created a service called Alipay, a system for making payments by phone, using QR codes. It's now used for billions of transactions and is making cash nearly obsolete in China.
"Imagine if half of the transactions you do in your day in the U.S. were also controlled by the same company," Clark says.
Alipay was spun off into a company called Ant Financial. Last fall, Ant Financial was on the verge of an initial public offering of stock — potentially the largest in history.
And that's when things started to go wrong. Regulators abruptly suspended the IPO, the Chinese government opened an investigation into Alibaba, and Ma has been largely out of public view after he criticized regulators.
Clark, who wrote the book Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built, has known Ma for decades.
"Jack Ma is an unusual tech entrepreneur in that he's not a tech guy at all," Clark tells NPR's Morning Edition in an interview. A former English teacher who turned into a successful entrepreneur, Ma "doesn't come from wealth or connections," Clark says. "He's an amazing communicator, which is odd because the reason we're talking about him is that he gave a terrible speech ... much like a bit that didn't go well at all."
What did he say in October?
He was speaking at something called the Bund Finance Summit in Shanghai. He was not the most important person in the room, if you think in terms of the government regulators who were there. And he proceeded to basically tell them that they were, you know, anachronistic — that you cannot, for example, run an airport like the way you run a train station.
And then he ... not only he initially launched into an attack on the global financial regulatory system of banking, but then he kind of moved his topic to China and said ... that he thought they were out of touch and that, you know, there was a new revolution coming. It was actually almost a call for revolution in terms of the finance sector.
What happened to his IPO after the speech?
It never happened. The stock was supposed to start trading in both Hong Kong and Shanghai. ... And, you know, initially the regulators in China said it's suspended. We've never heard an update. Subsequently, the government has announced investigation into the sector, also into Alibaba itself and other tech platforms, saying that, you know, it's a time to check whether there's a monopolistic behavior or excess power.
So I think underlying this pushing back on Jack Ma is also a reassertion of the role of the state in the economy, which is very much part of President Xi Jinping's agenda.
When and where was Jack Ma last seen? ...
To state the obvious, you can be in a lucrative position, but also a very powerful position if you're present when money is changing hands. And here's this guy running this company that is almost literally everywhere that money is changing hands. Is that such a powerful place to be that China's government would be especially concerned about what that company and what its leaders would do? ...
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