Jack Ma retiring may signal conflict with Xi Jinping and Chinese govt: reports

Speculation is rife that Jack Ma and Alibaba may have been targeted by Beijing for 'anti-corruption measures'

Jack Ma, chairman and founder of Alibaba will retire in Sept. 2019

Jack Ma, chairman and founder of Alibaba will retire in Sept. 2019 (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Following the announcement that Jack Ma, the chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba would retire in September 2019, and hand the reins of the company to current CEO Daniel Zhang (張勇) rumors have emerged concerning possible reasons for Ma’s retirement.

There are reports that Ma, and potentially the Alibaba Company, may have attracted the scrutiny of the Chinese Communist Party, and possibly the disfavor of the ruling Xi faction.

The exiled Chinese real estate magnate Guo Wengui (郭文貴), who is a major source of gossip concerning China, has previously claimed that Ma has already been targeted by Beijing, and that unless he leaves China permanently, he is very likely to be arrested and tried for corruption, or may die under mysterious circumstances.

With the announcement of Ma’s plans to retire and to remove himself from the direct management of Alibaba, many observers are reconsidering the predictions of Guo Wengui.

Newtalk suggests that during Xi Jinping’s first years of leadership, that Alibaba became a target of interest for China’s then anti-corruption Czar Wang Qishan (王岐山). Speculation has reemerged following Ma’s announcement that Ma may have allied himself with anti-Xi forces during previous anti-corruption campaigns.

Guo Wengui as early as July 2017 stated that China would not allow prosperous individuals to take too much wealth away from the state. Mentioning Ma and several other high profile businessmen, Guo said that “Once you have established great wealth in China, there are two fates that await, death or escape, there is no third way.”

Liberty Times, however reports that Jack Ma’s decision may be an incredibly timely one, and that by signaling he will step down now, he may avoid potential investigation over his business deals with so-called “Chinese princelings” during the years of 2014 to 2015.

Ma’s announcement, made amid the recent economic uncertainty in China, as the U.S.-China trade war prepares to escalate further, has fueled speculation about his decision.

Ma announced in his message to employees, shareholders, and customers, that he would retire on the 20th anniversary of Alibaba’s founding next year, Sept. 10, 2019, and that he planned to focus on activity as a philanthropist promoting education after his departure.