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Xi Jinping needs to bring Jack Ma back into the fold

China’s president banished the tech billionaire as part of a crackdown. He now needs that entrepreneurial boost. 

Shuli Ren
Published Tue, Nov 8, 2022 · 02:47 PM

CHINA’S tech moguls have been walking on eggshells. Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and the nation’s most prominent entrepreneur, disappeared from public view after delivering a speech on China’s state-dominated banking sector just over two years ago. His blunt criticism infuriated President Xi Jinping.

The fallout has been severe. Beijing abruptly pulled the US$35 billion IPO of Ma’s fintech giant Ant Group days after that infamous speech; Alibaba was slapped with a record US$2.8 billion anti-trust fine the next spring; and Ma’s investment firm is struggling to raise money because investors are afraid of potential political risks from backing him.

As such, at this week’s World Internet Conference (Nov 9), an annual event organised by Beijing to promote its vision of Internet governance, tech moguls will put their best faces forward. Last year, senior executives from Alibaba to Xiaomi Corp pledged support for Xi’s “common prosperity” drive, vowing to boost small businesses on their platforms. No one wants to deliver another unscripted talk that can offe…

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