According to Bloomberg, the Chinese state media on Tuesday published a list of its pioneering tech giants, but one name was surprisingly missing – Jack Ma. More telling was its commentary on the Alibaba’s co-founder archrival Pony M, who the Shanghai Securities News hailed for “rewriting the mobile age”.
Beijing’s official newspaper ran the brief editorial on the same day Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. was set for unveiling its earnings, Bloomberg reported. In the list, BYD Co. Chairman Wang Chuanfu, Xiaomi Corp. co-founder Lei Jun and Huawei Technologies Co.’s Ren Zhengfei, found mention among others.
“A generation of Chinese entrepreneurs emerged from the rigid structures of our old economic system with the desire to escape poverty and passion to achieve business ambitions. They have breathed new life into China’s economic reforms,” the newspaper, which is backed by the official Xinhua News Agency, wrote.
Ma was missing for nearly three months from public view, giving rise to intense speculation regarding his whereabouts. He resurfaced again on January 20, when the Chinese state media shared a video of him virtually meeting a hundred rural teachers across the country. The Alibaba founder’s disappearance from public view came at a time when he’s had recent run-ins with the Chinese government. Neither the Chinese government nor Alibaba had offered an explanation on his whereabouts.
Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba Group in 1999, when China had few internet users. Online payments service Alipay launched five years later, before regulators said such businesses would be allowed. Both long shots grew to dominate their industries.
Ma’s latest gambit backfired after he called regulators too conservative in his October 24 speech, and urged them to be more innovative. They halted the impending stock market debut of Ant Group, an online finance platform that grew out of Alipay. Alibaba’s share price sank, possibly costing Ma his status as China’s richest tycoon.