Slowly but surely, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba is disappearing from the Chinese business landscape. According to the Financial Times, Jack Ma will step down as president of one of his most personal projects: Hupan (“by the lake”), a business school founded in 2015 to train the country’s elite business leaders. In March 2021, a freshman class was canceled at the last minute. Since Beijing put an abrupt halt in November 2020 to the IPO of Ant Group, the financial subsidiary of Alibaba, the authorities have systematically attacked the empire founded by Mr. Ma.
In 2015, however, the latter showed his ambitions for Hupan: “We want it to work for three hundred years. “ The course lasts three years, and consists of courses and seminars given every two months by business celebrities like Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber and, of course, Jack Ma himself. Students are handpicked. They must have founded a company that has more than 30 employees, generates more than 30 million yuan (3.8 million euros) in turnover, and has paid taxes for at least three years. Among the former students is Jean Liu, the president of Didi, China’s number one in car reservations.
On May 17, the video of an employee erasing the name of “Hupan University”, engraved on a rock at the entrance of the campus, had made the rounds of social networks. The school, which is not officially a university, changed its name to the Hupan Innovation Center, and a photo of Jack Ma was removed from its website. Mr. Ma’s school had been denounced by the state press as being an elite bosses club. Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, the Communist Party has continued to strengthen its grip on society, and, more recently, on the business world.
Jack Ma, a charismatic boss and one of the richest men in China, was wrong to vilify the financial regulators. Its influence was considered too great by Beijing. In April, Alibaba was fined 2.3 billion euros for monopoly practices, a record in the country. The company was also ordered to reduce its numerous media holdings in China. A way, again, to cut back on its ascendancy