Chinese tech billionaire and the founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, has vanished from the public eye for over two months after he came in conflict with President Xi Jinping-led Central Communist Party government.
The business tycoon was set to appear as a judge in the final episode of his own talent show, ‘Africa’s Business Heroes’, but mysteriously did not turn up for it and as a consequence, his photographs were removed from the show’s website.
The ‘Africa’s Business Heroes’ show gives budding African entrepreneurs the chance to compete for a slice of US $1.5 million.
One of China’s unusually vocal and outspoken tycoons, Ma flayed the CCP government’s ‘pawnshop’ financial regulators and state-owned banks in an incendiary speech in Shanghai back in October. Further, calling for reform of a system that ‘stifled business innovation’, he likened global banking regulations to an ‘old people’s club’.
The speech angered the Chinese government, which viewed Ma’s criticisms as an attack on the authority of the Communist Party, and led to its extraordinary clampdown on Ma’s business activities.
In November, officials in Beijing reprimanded Ma and suspended the blockbuster $37billion initial public offering of his Ant Group on the direct order of President Jinping, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Ma was then advised to remain in China before launching an anti-monopoly investigation into his Alibaba Group Holding on Christmas Eve, according to Bloomberg. Beijing also ordered Ma’s financial tech company Ant Group to scale back its operations.
“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.
Ma is one of China’s wealthiest men and his work for the UN and global charity activities in recent years has brought a softer edge to China’s global image.