He is the most famous businessman in China and the symbol of “self-made man” for his compatriots. At 56 years old, Jack Ma will have to deal with the revenge of the authorities, who seem determined to clip his wings.
This Thursday, the State Administration for Market Regulation of China shook the Chinese business world , where Alibaba and its charismatic founder Jack Ma symbolize the success of electronic commerce, by announcing that this internet giant will be investigated for “suspicious practices monopoly “.
This former English teacher, officially ‘retired’ from Alibaba last year, received an affront from financial regulators, who also contacted Ant Group, a subsidiary of Alibaba, the world leader in online payments and of which Ma is the largest shareholder, to discuss “supervision and advice.”
This happened a few weeks after Beijing frustrated at the last minute the IPO of the company, with which Jack Ma thought his fortune would exceed 70,000 million dollars (60,000 million euros).
This fiasco cost Jack Ma billions, even losing the title of China’s first fortune, estimated at $ 58 billion.
The power of President Xi Jinping seems determined to fight the monopolistic tendencies of private groups like Alibaba, whose online sales platforms are used by hundreds of millions of Chinese.
An unprecedented setback for this millionaire, who anticipated before anyone else the evolution of his compatriots towards electronic commerce when he co-founded Alibaba in 1999.
The Chinese media often recall his humble origins, a father who struggled to feed his family, his poor school results and the small, poorly paid jobs until the creation of Alibaba in an apartment in Hangzhu, eastern China, with a capital of $ 60,000 that he borrowed from friends.
Jack Ma (whose Chinese name is Ma Yun) decided to abandon his profession as a university teacher after discovering the internet and the possibility it offered to companies to exchange their assets online.
This man quickly understood the potential of smartphones and pioneered, with his Alipay service, electronic mobile payment, now ubiquitous in China, earning a reputation as a visionary.
“The first time I used the Internet, I typed and said to myself: ‘This is something that is going to change the world and China, ‘” he told the US television network CNN.
The take-off of Alibaba’s online trading platform , Taobao, forced the American eBay to practically withdraw from the Chinese market in 2006, freeing its rival.
Jack Ma is known for his eccentricities, in a rather serious Chinese business world. Much admired by his employees, he has often been compared to Steve Jobs, the legendary Apple co-founder, although his style is more relaxed.
The successful and atypical businessman is at the same time an adept of tai chi, traditional Chinese gymnastics for inner and physical balance, took the stage at a company party disguised as Michael Jackson and is a member of the very austere Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in power .
From Davos to Wall Street, he has rubbed shoulders with global personalities and promised Donald Trump to create one million jobs in January 2017, when the American billionaire was due to enter the White House.
He then withdrew that promise, using the argument from Trump’s trade war against China.
In September 2018, Jack Ma announced that he would retire a year later, when he turned 55, to dedicate himself to philanthropic projects in the educational field, something that recalled the path followed by one of his models, the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates.
His rise always deserved criticism and enmities at the top of the Communist Party.
Jack Ma may have to rethink the slogan that has presided over his career and that he clearly set out in 2007 at Davos, the world finance event: “My philosophy is to be in love with power without marrying it.”