Chinese e-commerce giant Ma co-founded Alibaba saw its Hong Kong-listed shares fall as much as 9.4% on Tuesday after Chinese state media reported that a man named “Ma” in the city of Hangzhou — where Alibaba is located — was nationally He was taken into custody on security grounds.
According to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, the suspect was placed under “compulsory measures” on April 25 on suspicion of “collusion with foreign anti-China hostile forces” for “inciting secession” and “inciting subversion of state power”. Was.
The one-sentence report, which was swiftly picked up by other state media outlets and alerted on Chinese news platforms, triggered panic selling in Hong Kong, wiping an estimated $26 billion from Alibaba’s market value in minutes. gave.
To address further concerns, the Global Times reported that the accused person was born in Wenzhou in 1985 (while Jack Ma was born in Hangzhou in 1964) and served as the director of hardware research and development in an IT company. had worked in
The clarification led to a rebound, with Alibaba recovering most of its losses by the end of the day.
The market’s roller coaster reaction is the latest sign of how investors are turning over China’s embattled tech sector, which has been the target of heavy-handed regulatory action from the Chinese government since late 2020.
“I thought it was a strange episode,” said Victor Shih, a professor of political science at the University of California San Diego. “Was that a warning of sorts to the technology sector as a whole, or perhaps Jack Ma individually. Who knows? But it certainly demonstrates that the government has to wield tens of billions of dollars to a senior technology executive. Don’t get arrested. The company’s market valuation. It just needs to release some sort of information,” Shih said.
“It’s quite powerful. And of course what happened yesterday was a clear example of that power, whether it was distributed or not.”
But the fact that investors were so quick to believe that Jack Ma, once China’s most high-profile billionaire, would fall from state security officials, suggests something of the political reality that many Chinese tycoons now live in. Huh.
The shift in public sentiment against Ma is almost as spectacular as his Rag to Rich story. Until about three years ago, the English teacher-turned-billionaire was widely worshiped for his charisma, outspokenness and self-made success. (He was also nicknamed “Daddy Ma” by some fans).
As the tech giant fell under the crosshairs of the Chinese government, “rogue capitalists” have increasingly been blamed for a variety of social ills, from relentless competition, to skyrocketing property prices to a lack of social mobility.
“But the question is, will bringing down the capitalists and driving out (so-called) foreign forces really make everyone’s life better?”
Jack Ma has mostly disappeared from public life and kept a low profile since the Ant Group IPO in the US in late 2020 was halted by regulators. Once one of the most outspoken figures in China, he has not posted anything on Weibo, where he has almost 25 million followers since October 2020.
The top comment said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the old mother is thrown in jail one day.” “You’re just a bourgeoisie! Don’t pretend to be a good person!” Another comment screamed.
Jack Ma remained silent throughout Tuesday, as rumors against him circulated on the Chinese Internet. The hashtags about the custody of the suspect surnamed Ma were among the top trending topics on Weibo, garnering millions of views.
“Such silence has a profound significance. For a public figure, his speech is the ‘extension’ of his being. When a person does not speak, though he is still alive, still doing things, less At least part of it has ‘disappeared’.”