Where did Jack Ma go? For six months, the question has not only worried financial circles but has also fueled speculation about a takeover of the digital economy by the Chinese state. Jack Ma is the richest man in China, the founder of Alibaba, the world’s largest e-commerce company. In the space of two decades, thanks to its online shopping, payment and loan platforms, it has become both a commercial and banking player more powerful than a Bezos or a Zuckerberg. Today, Beijing is dismantling its empire.
With one exception, Jack Ma has not appeared in public since last October. He then criticized the Chinese banking regulatory system, considered outdated. At the time, the flamboyant entrepreneur was preparing the IPO of his bank lending subsidiary, Ant Group, which promised to set a new stock market valuation record. The operation was stopped at the end of the year by the Chinese regulator. Since then, signals have multiplied in China of a takeover of digital companies, mostly private, so that they conform to the same mold as the public sector. At the beginning of April, Alibaba was to pay a 2.4 billion francs fine for “abuse of a dominant position”. This movement should be completed, according to information from the Financial Times, by transferring all the data of Ant Group’s 700 million customers to a subsidiary of the Central Bank of China. Which amounts to a form of nationalization.