“The investments of Ma’s companies are directly associated with some of China’s most powerful political families. The fact that this time he is getting into trouble with the Chinese state likely has high politics in the background, not just because he made one speech which may have hit Xi [Jinping, China’s president] or some other party official’s nerve.”
“I think Beijing is still afraid of Alibaba to a degree . . . The government thinks it’s being challenged,” a state media employee said.
BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – China has ordered its domestic media to censor reports about an antitrust probe into Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, signalling how the issue has become a matter of national political sensitivity, the Financial Times reported.
A directive issued by the government’s propaganda arm toward the end of last year ordered news outlets to strictly invoke the official line on the investigation into the tech giant and prohibited them from engaging in extended analysis without permission, the FT said, citing two people who read the order.
Billionaire Jack Ma’s empire has become the most prominent target of China’s campaign against the technology industry, which as so far torpedoed affiliate Ant Group Co’s US$35 billion (S$46.39 billion) initial public offering and led to an antitrust investigation at the e-commerce giant.
Mr Ma, who hasn’t been seen in public for months, has been advised by the government to stay in the country, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News.
Several online blogs that speculated about his whereabouts have been censored, according to the FT.
In addition to restricting access to global sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, authorities in Beijing have long exerted tight control over domestic news coverage of topics deemed to be politically sensitive.
During the Covid-19 outbreak last year, social media platforms were scrubbed of posts critical of the government, while information about the Hong Kong protests in 2019 were wiped from the Internet even as state media blamed US interference.
An Alibaba-backed media platform that published an editorial warning against excessive punishment of China’s tech giants was made to halt its operations for a month, the FT reported.
Alibaba didn’t immediately reply to queries for comment.
Yuan Yang in Beijing 4 HOURS AGO
Beijing orders Chinese media to censor coverage of Alibaba probe
8 Jan, 2021 09:30 AM
China’s government has told the country’s media to censor reporting on an antitrust probe into tech group Alibaba, whose founder Jack Ma has disappeared from public view as misfortunes mount for his business empire, according to people familiar with the matter.
The move by authorities to exert control over the media coverage of the prominent group’s woes shows that the issue has become a matter of national political sensitivity in China.
Beijing has cracked down in recent months on Mr Ma’s business empire. The $37bn initial public offering of Alibaba’s payments affiliate Ant Group was cancelled by authorities at the last minute in November, while the following month, competition regulators announced an anti-monopoly investigation into Alibaba.
At the end of December, the Chinese government’s propaganda arm directed media outlets to “strictly invoke” the official line on the antitrust investigation into Alibaba and to “not make changes or engage in extended analysis without permission”.
The fact that this time [Mr Ma] is getting into trouble with the Chinese state likely has high politics in the background
Xiao Qiang, University of California at Berkeley”If any company announcements oppose the official stance, do not publish, do not re-post, do not quote foreign media,” the directive said, according to two people who read it.
Government mouthpiece the People’s Daily have criticised China’s tech industry for pursuing “ever-higher market concentration”, saying that increasing market supervision is important for the healthy development of the economy.
“This directive is severe and unusual,” said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the University of California at Berkeley School of Information. “The language [of the directive] is quite similar to the directives on ‘very important political event’ reports such as the trial of Bo Xilai,” he added, referring to the disgraced former politician jailed for life for corruption.
“The investments of Ma’s companies are directly associated with some of China’s most powerful political families. The fact that this time he is getting into trouble with the Chinese state likely has high politics in the background, not just because he made one speech which may have hit Xi [Jinping, China’s president] or some other party official’s nerve,” said Mr Xiao.