Jack Ma, who recently stepped down as CEO of Taobao-parent Alibaba, shocked many when he gave an interview to the SCMP praising the Chinese government for its effective censorship regime and capacity for “cruel decisions”.
As the CEO of a company, you have to [make cruel decisions]. It’s like Deng Xiaoping, the then top leader, had to make cruel decisions during the June 4 crackdown for the country’s stability.
Prior to this interview, Ma’s public persona was one of a liberal, independently-minded businessperson. He instituted a system of internal democracy at Alibaba, saying he wanted Chinese people “to learn what democracy means”. Alibaba, which in 2012 handled more in sales than rivals eBay and Amazon combined, has remained fiercely independent from the Chinese state.
I think the Chinese government is terrific. Many foreigners say the government controls the internet. If it is true, China’s internet censorship is very advanced, because China still has 600 million internet users and has three or four of the world’s top 10 internet companies.
So what’s behind Ma’s sudden embrace of the “terrific” CPC? Could it be the “cruel decision” to execute Zeng Chengjie, ‘China’s Bernie Madoff‘, on dubious charges without informing his family?
At Global Voices, Oiwan Lam collects a number of commentators on the Chinese web who think Ma is running scared:
@是王默俺: From the very beginning, he is lining up on the right side. Now he is just running naked. Zeng Chengjie made him scared.
@燕山明月: Taobao is a great business and Alibaba a great company. Ma Yun is a great entrepreneur. But fear seems to have occupied Ma’s heart. Standing at the cliff, the scream of Zeng Chengjie can be heard in the wind. His heart tangled and he looked back behind him, the big brother is smiling in his gaze at him.
Over 300 people, including several prominent exiled dissidents, have signed an open letter to Ma demanding that he retract his statement about the Tiananmen Square massacre and “a solemn and public apology to all those who were victims of or participants in [the June 4 protests]”.