For the past two months or so, the world has been witnessing an epic showdown between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Communist nation’s most popular billionaire- Alibaba founder, Jack Ma. But now, global media houses are reporting that the Alibaba founder has disappeared from his own reality show.
In fact, as per Financial Times, Ma has “not been seen in public” since he criticised China’s regulators and its State-owned banks. His sudden disappearance becomes that much more mysterious given the growing discord between Ma and the CCP. Also, China has a history of mysterious, high-profile disappearances, especially with the Xi administration at the helm of affairs and Ma’s disappearance, therefore, is being read in light of his apparent tussle with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Jack Ma, whose net worth is estimated to be just under $50billion, has reportedly disappeared as the public face of an African talent-hunt show. Ma had himself created the television show for budding entrepreneurs- Africa’s Business Heroes. Earlier, Ma had expressed enthusiasm about his reality show. In August last year, Ma had congratulated 20 entrepreneurs successfully going through his foundation’s talent show. He had tweeted, “I can’t wait to meet them!” His sudden disappearance as a judge in the final of the talent show has thus made headlines.
But the Alibaba founder was replaced as a judge in the final of the talent show, by Lucy Peng, an Alibaba Executive. Even Ma’s photograph was removed from the judging webpage, and he was also left out of a promotional video for the show.
“Due to a schedule conflict Mr Ma could no longer be part of the finale judge panel of Africa’s Business Heroes earlier this year (2020),” an Alibaba spokesperson said.
But the talent show is not the only space where Ma is not visible. Earlier, he used to be active on Twitter, and his handle also carried several tweets a day. But in recent weeks, there has been no activity on his Twitter feed.
China’s super-rich entrepreneur Jack Ma is known globally as a successful businessman and an active philanthropist. His work for the United Nations and other global charity activities has made him extremely popular. Last year, Ma donated tens of millions of masks globally following the Wuhan virus outbreak.
His sudden disappearance is thus bound to make headlines. It is actually quite an event. But let us give you some context. In October last year, Ma accused China’s State-owned banks of operating with a “pawnshop” mentality. He also criticised their incessant obsession with collateral and guarantees. The billionaire also called China’s financial regulation outdated and badly suited for upcoming fintech solution companies like his new venture- Ant Group Co.
The Xi administration retaliated by stalling Ant Group Co’s record stock listing worth $37 billion. Last month, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation also launched an anti-monopoly probe against Alibaba. Xi’s vindictive actions against Ma and other billionaire businessmen has led to many rich Chinese businessmen fleeing the Communist nation to safer destinations.
Not too long ago, Ma himself used to be a CCP favourite. He had even promised to happily hand over all his businesses to the party if it so desires. He, of course, wouldn’t fancy staying in limelight at a time when the perceived friction between the CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping and the Alibaba founder is going up.
And then, China itself has a history of high-profile disappearances. In 2013, Xi even introduced new enactments that actually legalised arbitrary and secret detentions in China.
China ‘disappeared’ several celebrities and senior officials in recent years, for different periods of time. Some of the high-profile cases include a famous actress Fan Bingbing, gene-editing scientist He Jiankui and Interpol chief Meng Hongwei.
Abuse of power is a common phenomenon in China. And since a Communist system believes in absolute equality, you are equally at risk of being targeted unfairly by the CCP, no matter who you are.