Now the chances have increased that these bold statements will become real. "Given what happened, Ant has to be controlled or even majority-owned at some point," said Zhiwu Chen, an economist at Hong Kong University's business school.
The pressure on Mr. Ma signals a postponement of regulation of the Internet by the Chinese government. It has long censored content, but in other ways it has taken a laissez-faire approach. Regulations were frugal. No state-owned companies were involved. In the beginning, China's internet industry was small.
Today, Alibaba and its arch rival Tencent control more personal data and are more involved in everyday life in China than Google, Facebook and other American tech titans are in the US. And just like their American counterparts, the Chinese giants sometimes harass smaller competitors and kill innovations. You don't have to be a member of the Communist Party to see reasons to contain it.
Instead of disrupting the state system, companies have got used to it. Sometimes they even help the authorities track down people. Yet the government has increasingly seen its size and influence as a threat.
However, China's tech companies aren't the country's largest monopolies. These are owned by the state, which dominates banking and finance, telecommunications, electricity, and other important businesses.
“China Mobile is a monopoly. The Chinese industrial and commercial bank is a monopoly, ”wrote Zhang Weiying, a distinguished economist from Peking University, in 2017,“ because you cannot enter these industries without the permission of the government. "
The article was republished on multiple social media accounts last week but quickly censored.
It's too early to say how far regulators will go on Mr. Ma and Big Tech. However, some market-friendly people in China fear that the country is heading for the hard line of the 1950s when the party eliminated the capital class and used language that likened capitalist leanings to impurities, flaws and weaknesses.