China’s President Xi Jinping simply cannot think beyond his biggest domestic rival- Jack Ma, China’s most popular billionaire and the third richest man in the Communist nation. For the past few months, the CCP has been targeting Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group. Alibaba’s Ant Group- a fintech entity, is, particularly on Xi’s radar. The CCP seems to fear a coup of sorts from Ma- the powerful billionaire, leading to Xi administration’s knee-jerk reactions.
Now, Chinese regulators have asked Ant Group Co. to return to its roots as a payment services provider. The order threatens to jeopardise Ant’s primary business- fintech operations involving microlending and wealth management. But why can’t Xi get over Jack Ma? The answer lies in Jack Ma’s money and the things that the influential 56-years old can do with so much money.
Jack Ma is uber-rich. Even today, his net worth stands at $50.4 billion. He is the third richest Chinese, but in terms of popularity, he is next to none. His businesses bring influence and power along with them, which the CCP doesn’t seem to like.
Jack Ma controls strategic businesses. The big billionaire became successful with Alibaba, an online business to business marketplace. Then, he also founded the famous e-commerce platform, Taobao. But over time, his business profile has moved beyond just e-commerce. In 2015, Ma bought the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, an influential media house that reports about the Communist nation.
Jack Ma also led the fintech revolution in China with Ant Group Co, which built a massive $200 billion financial empire. Ant Group was also about to launch a record $37 billion IPO before the Jinping administration stalled the much-anticipated stock market listing.
Now, China’s President Xi is, at the end of the day, an insecure man. As the CCP General-Secretary, he must be thinking what Ma can do with the obscene amount of money at his peril and all the influence that the Alibaba founder enjoys. Jinping would be imagining how easily the Alibaba founder can buy out his confidantes, influential sections of the Chinese State-owned media or perhaps even a few Generals of the People’s Liberation Army- the armed wing of the CCP.
After all, Ma is not only a billionaire but the most famous rich Chinese in the world, so much so that Fortune gave him the second rank on its World’s 50 Greatest Leaders list in 2017. In 2014, Ma was ranked as the 30th most powerful person in the world by Forbes, and in May 2009, Time magazine included him in a list of the world’s 100 most powerful people.
The thought that Ma is trying to take control has actually sent the CCP into a tizzy. In this context, when the 56-year-old billionaire criticised “outdated regulation” and accused the State-owned banks of operating with a “pawnshop” mentality, the CCP started feeling as if the famous entrepreneur was driving China away from Mao’s Communism.
The CCP thrives on State Capitalism and harvests businesses once they become big and successful. Xi administration, therefore, finds Jack Ma’s business empire too big to be comfortable with. Apart from all the money that he has, Ma’s persona may be also fuelling insecurity within the Jinping-led CCP government. The Alibaba founder is everything that Xi Jinping is not. Ma is a rockstar and people in China show up simply to listen to him speak, while no one seems to care about Xi’s rhetoric speeches.
Apparently, the Alibaba founder is also seen as an avid environmentalist outside China, but Jinping, of course, is too stubborn to cooperate on the issue of Climate Change. And the biggest deal-breaker for the CCP-Ma seemed to get along well with Xi’s biggest enemy, Donald Trump during a 2017 meeting.
Jack Ma is not just a businessman. He is an icon within and beyond China. And this is why the CCP hates him. It seems that Ma has the popularity, as well as, the ability to become China’s next President, with or without the CCP.