Beijing: Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire and founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, who ran into trouble with the Chinese government for violating anti-monopoly rules and kept a low profile since 2020, has been living in Tokyo for about six months now , according to a media report on Tuesday. Ma’s months-long stay in Japan with his family has included stints at hot springs and ski resorts in the countryside outside Tokyo and regular trips to the US and Israel, the Financial Times reported, citing people with direct knowledge of his whereabouts.
Ma, 58, has largely disappeared from public view since he criticized Chinese regulators in 2020, accusing state-run banks of having a pawn mentality. and calling out bold new players who can provide loans to the collateral poor.
Since then, both the companies he founded – Ant and e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba – have faced a series of regulatory hurdles. Chinese regulators shut down Ant’s blockbuster USD 37 billion initial public offering and slapped a USD 2.8 billion fine on Alibaba last year.
His absence from China coincides with the escalation of President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid controls this year. It imposed a harsh lockdown in Shanghai and the surrounding Yangtze River Delta in April and May, and nationwide protests in recent days, the report said.
Prior to his troubles with the Chinese government, Ma had visited India, where his Alibaba has developed business interests, and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015. Ma has a home in Hangzhou, a city near Shanghai where Alibaba is headquartered. Ma has been seen in various countries including Spain and the Netherlands since his fallout with the Chinese authorities.
Born into a poor family, Ma, one of the most respected businessmen among the Chinese people, grew up to become one of the richest men in China. Ma’s sudden and surprising retirement announcement in 2019, saying he preferred to die on a beach rather than at his work desk, sparked speculation that he was feeling the weight of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). Who firmly exercised his control. prompted him to downsize his businesses on China’s top businesses.
His retirement and a subsequent anti-monopoly crackdown by the CPC on a host of Chinese businesses including Tencent and ByteDance fueled speculation that the party headed by Xi is cutting wealthy businesses down to size in order to reduce their growing influence in China. .
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, owned by Ma, recently reported that wealthy Chinese were looking for ways to flee after Xi won a third five-year term at the CPC’s biennial congress last month. . action against them.
The Post reports that a growing number of wealthy Chinese and even the middle class are paying for residency and citizenship through investments, which gives them the fluidity of location and the ability to have two or more ‘homes’ at any given time. ‘ Provides the option to transfer between countries.
Ma was last seen on Spain’s Mallorca island. The FT reports that during his stay in Tokyo, he kept his personal chef and security with him and kept his public appearances to a minimum.
Their social activities are centered around a small handful of private members’ clubs, including one located in the heart of Tokyo’s swashbuckling Ginza district and another in the Marunouchi financial district opposite the Imperial Palace.
Others said Ma had used his time in Japan to expand his business interests beyond Alibaba and Ant’s core e-commerce technologies and into the area of sustainability. He has largely taken over the reins of the new generation of leaders in both companies.
Ma’s six months in Japan coincide with SoftBank’s historic sell-off of its long-term stake in Alibaba after the Japanese technology conglomerate suffered heavy losses from a global tech rout earlier this year. The Jack Ma Foundation and Ant did not respond to requests for comment regarding his visit to Tokyo, the report said.