The logo of Alibaba Group is seen at its office in Beijing, China January 5, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Chinese fintech billionaire Jack Ma has not made a public appearance since October, spurring speculation that he may have been detained by the Chinese government. In a move deemed to be retaliatory, Chinese regulators shut down Ma’s Alibaba-owned Ant Group’s record-breaking IPO shortly after he was publicly critical of government regulators for what he saw as stifling innovation.

Speculation began to swirl after Ma’s absence as a judge from his own talent show in October, though an Alibaba spokeswoman stated that his absence was due to a scheduling conflict. CNBC’s David Faber also reported that Ma was not missing but “laying low” according to an unnamed source familiar with the matter. Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at Oanda, stated, “There’s no evidence that Jack Ma has been detained, and they really don’t have any reason to detain him.” 

Despite the report that Ma is laying low and has not been detained, many are pointing to several recent high-profile disappearance of business magnates in China after criticizing Beijing. Real-estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang disappeared in March after criticizing the CCP’s handling of coronavirus and was later sentenced to 18 years in prison. Asset manager Xiao Jianhua was taken from a Hong Kong hotel and accused of luring investors away from Chinese stock markets. Parts of his company were seized as a result. Agriculture billionaire Sun Dawu was arrested on charges of “causing public disorder and disrupting industrial operations.” Sun’s arrest followed his public criticism of the CCP’s mishandling of a swine fever-related outbreak that impacted his business, resulting in his business being taken over by the Chinese government.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

Jack Ma’s disappearing act fuels speculation about billionaire’s whereabouts – Reuters – 1/4/2021
While news coverage of Ma’s absence from public view triggered speculation on Twitter, which is blocked in China, it was not a significant trending topic on social media in mainland China, where sensitive topics are subject to censorship. Chinese regulators have zeroed in on Ma’s businesses since his October speech including launching an antitrust probe into Alibaba and ordering Ant to shake up its lending and other consumer finance businesses including the creation of a separate holding company to meet capital requirements.

Where Is Jack Ma? Alibaba’s Founder Has Kept a Low Profile Since October – Wall Street Journal – 1/5/2021
Mr. Ma’s frank remarks, as he was on the cusp of a record-breaking IPO, caused an immediate stir in China. Regulators regarded the speech as a direct attack against them, and Ant’s public debut was halted just two days before its big day, with Chinese leader Xi Jinping personally intervening to scuttle the market listing, according to people familiar with the matter.

Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba, hasn’t been seen in two months after the Chinese government cracked down on his companies. Here’s a timeline of his fall from grace. – Business Insider – 1/5/2021
Ma became the richest man in China through his highly successful companies, as well as a well-known face across China and in the global business world. But China had recently begun to crack down on his empire, launching an investigation into Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, and halting the IPO of Ant Group, his fintech company.

Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s not ‘missing,’ just ‘laying low’ after economic reform speech: sources – Fox Business – 1/5/2021
Both Alibaba and Ant Group, the financial services company he spun off of Alibaba, came under the scrutiny of the Chinese government after Ma’s speech. Alibaba is facing an antitrust investigation launched in December, while Ant Group’s IPO was suspended and the business was told to restructure. Alibaba Group shares traded in Hong Kong have fallen 19% since October. Ma’s fortune, which peaked earlier above $60 billion, fell by more than $10 billion.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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