Ren Zhiqiang, a Real Estate mogul, detained and jailed in 2020 Xiao Jianhua, owner of Tomorrow Holding (an investment firm), detained in 2017 Zhou Chengjian, founder of Shanghai Metersbonwe Fashion & Accessories, detained in 2016 Guo Guangchang, one of the founders of the investment firm Fosun International, detained in 2015 Yim Fung, joint chairman and chief executive of Guotai Junan International Holdings Limited, disappeared for a month in 2015 Xu Ming, Founder of Dalian Shide Groups, detained in 2012
The newest addition to this list of billionaires is none other than the extremely popular and admired Chinese tycoon, Jack Ma.
But, first, let’s rewind to September 2013.
Document 9 : CCP’s Propaganda to camouflage insecurities and voices of discontent
In sept 2013, the Mingjing magazine leaked a document, titled Communique on the current state of the ideological sphere, as it was the 9th communique of the year, it is informally referred to as the “Document 9”. Distributed secretly among the party members, this doc guided and urged them to prevent the spread of few “false ideologies”, some of which were – (a) constitutional democracy and the value system of the West (b) the concept of civil society which advocates for individual rights and freedom (c) strengthening govt control in all aspects (d) journalism and freedom of speech and expression.
Significance of Document 9 ?
Soon after the publication of this doc, the government intensified their crackdown against the human rights activists and lawyers, media platforms, intelligentsia, businessmen, in fact all those who had differing opinion, even some senior CCP members were not spared.
Party, government, military, civilian, and academic; east, west, south, north, and centre, the Party leads everything.CCP declared after the 19th National Congress in Oct 2017
In line with the Document 9, private businesses that were becoming a challenge to the CCP were crushed or subdued immediately, thus effectively pointing out that no one was above the Party. These new guidelines became the authority to keep all dissenters, competitors and rivals to Xi’s (and the Party’s) reign, in check. Bogus charges and questionable trials became the govt’s modus operandi whenever someone opposed their policies or when a person’s popularity outgrew CCP’s permitted threshold.
Now, back to Jack Ma’s disappearance, does it actually come as a surprise? No.
The Rise and Fall of Jack Ma, CCP’s latest victim
As a global ambassador for Chinese business and as one of the world’s most powerful (and flamboyant) people, Ma’s success story, from rags to riches, while cliché has been a source of motivation for Chinese businesses and young entrepreneurs. And therefore, it wasn’t a surprise that for quite some time Ma played the ‘poster boy’ for CCP govt too.. that was until he spoke his mind.
Ma’s forced disappearance after his Oct 2020 speech at the Shanghai Bund Summit, where he condemned the country’s financial regulators and criticized the CCP regime for curbing the growth and sustenance of entrepreneurs and private businesses, is speculated to be the response of the jibe he took at CCP. But while this speech might have been a trigger, was it the only reason?
Is it a Ma Vs Xi Situation ? Or Ma vs CCP Situation ?
Like all mysteries, the disappearance of Jack Ma has raised poignant questions, none without merit. Could the sudden and unceremonious disappearance be because Ma’s rapidly widening power and influence over all societies/classes/age groups of China had come in direct competition with Xi’s? At the time when Xi was facing the world’s wrath over the nCov-19 situation, Ma’s philanthropy was winning him respect from all over the world. Could this have been a cause of urgent concern for Xi? Or Could it be that CCP realised that the Alibaba’s digital wallet service, Alipay would be a strong rival to China’s plan of digitalizing Yuan, and therefore the company had to be crushed? And, if this is true, could Tencent Holding’s (creator of WeChat Pay) be looking at a similar future?
Xi’s Mao-like purge of dissenters/competitors is not a new phenomenon in autocratic societies. Time and again history has shown that when leaders resort to detentions/exiling/silencing anyone who challenges their absolute authority…they end up stirring uncontrollable chaos and discontent within the society.
So, while we sit and ponder on Jack Ma and his Ant Group’s future, I leave you all with the words of Aaron Friedberg, a politics and international affairs professor at Princeton University –
Under Xi, and especially in the last few years, the CCP has made a regular practice of arresting such people and stripping them of their assets. Whatever the particular details of each individual case, the larger point is to send a message: no one is above the Party or beyond its reach.