The Chinese communist regime is pressuring Jack Ma to hand over customer data collected by his companies Alibaba and Ant Group. Both companies are under anti-monopoly investigation after Ma criticized the CCP for stifling innovation in China’s financial sector with extremely stringent regulations. This had eventually triggered the Party to act against Ma, even blocking the IPO of Ant Group which could have been the biggest in history. Beijing has effectively ordered the breakup of Ant Group, pushing Chinese entrepreneurs into a state of fear. Ma has lost almost a quarter of his net worth, and he’s no longer the richest man in China.
At present, Beijing is eyeing the huge trove of customer data regularly handled by Ma’s companies.
“What the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) covets the most is the digital hegemonic power that Ma has possessed. That is, the dominance of three flows: flows of money, information, and content,” a data and cybersecurity expert said to VOA.
Ma’s companies are believed to have information that includes spending habits, loan repayment histories, and borrowing behaviors of almost a billion Chinese citizens. Beijing wants access to this information to integrate it into their social credit system that ranks people on various factors and grants privileges according to the ranks.
Law Ka Chung, the former chief economist at the Bank of Communications in Hong Kong, believes that the CCP wants the user data of Alibaba and Ant Group to expand its authoritarian control over society. For instance, Communist Party officials can use data of online purchases of The Bible to identify potential underground churches. Law points out that such deep control over people will scare many of them into silence for fear of being caught and punished. He firmly believes that Beijing will eventually nationalize Alibaba. This will also allow the communist regime to access the data of international customers.
Even though most of Alibaba’s customers are in China, it does have a sizable client base overseas. CEO Daniel Zhang has even predicted that the company will be serving 2 billion customers worldwide by 2036.
Given Beijing’s authoritarian way of using private data of users, allowing any China-linked company to operate in a democratic country would be a risky affair. This is why Trump wanted to ban Chinese apps to protect American interests.
The cybersecurity expert also revealed to VOA that the Chinese government can already access the personal data of foreigners by using the backdoors discreetly installed in China-manufactured hardware. Almost 90 percent of the world’s card readers are produced in China.
Jack Ma disappeared from the public after his anti-CCP speech in October
Ma only reappeared on Jan. 20 to participate in an online ceremony. Some speculated that Ma had been detained and “re-educated” by the communist regime. Others said he simply wanted to stay out of the public eye until the legal issues were over.
“Jack Ma’s reappearance has given investors peace of mind after a lot of rumors, allowing them to pile into the stock which had been a laggard in the market,” Steven Leung, sales director at brokerage UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong, told The Epoch Times.
Back in November, Ma apparently offered a portion of Ant Group to the CCP to appease the party. However, officials still went ahead with suppressing his business and influence.