After reports that China's most famous billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has been missing in action for weeks, it has come to light that he is 'embracing supervision'. This has fuelled speculations that one of the world's richest men, Ma is either arrested or placed under house arrest. China has a track record of not revealing information on arrests of big personalities, so 'embracing supervision' could well mean jail.
Coinciding with his disappearance is Chinese state-owned media's heated up online vitriol against Ma, which has suddenly increased. After Ma's recent wrangle with China's authoritarian regime over the regulatory issues, Chinese media outlets have desperately tried to change his image from "Uncle Horse" (Ma in Chinese means horse)" to a cruel and money-grabbing "vampire" businessman. He is being posed as the one who loves to exploit the poor in various government-leaning media outlets.
Jack Ma is 'embracing supervision', Hong Kong-based The Asia Times has quoted Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily as saying. He has been ordered not to leave the country. The People's Daily in a November piece also said Ma couldn't take Alibaba to such heights without the Chinese government's policies: "Ma Yun is savvy, but without the support of national policies, Ali will not be able to become a trillion business empire."
Ma has not made any public appearance since November 2020, which has raised eyebrows over his whereabouts. He didn't even appear in the final episode of his own talent show, 'Africa's Business Heroes', which gives budding African entrepreneurs an opportunity to compete to win $1.5 million.
Ma's "horse" fell after Ma criticised China's regulatory system in October 2020, saying it has a "pawnshop mentality" and that the company like AliPay was unsuitable for financial regulatory structure like that of China's. Calling for reform in the country's regulatory system, Jack Ma blamed it for stifling business innovation and likened China's global banking regulations to an "old people's club."
Coincidently, it happened just a few days before his company Ant Group was about to launch one of the world's biggest IPOs worth $37 billion in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
It's reported that Chinese authorities, unhappy over his tirade against them, pulled the plug citing Alibaba's enormous growth and launched an 'anti-monopoly' probe against his company.
Another Chinese billionaire, JD.com's Liu Qiangdong has also come under Chinese government's "supervision". Chinese regulators have increased scrutiny over the Qiangdong-led company whose digital company JD Digital is eying to go public in future.
Meanwhile, the investigation has led to a drop in Alibaba's shares by a quarter since their peak, wiping over $10 billion from his fortune. This resulted in him falling to third place on the list of China's richest people. Ma's current net worth is estimated at $63.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Also read: Jack Ma missing? Here's what we know so far