Alibaba CEO Jack Ma is here with a disheartening reality check: he never said that he would financially support his 8-year-old lookalike through university.
The feel-good story went viral yesterday, fooling official Chinese news outlets, social media users and yours truly with an apparent official statement from Ma in which he even commented on the “heavy reality” of child poverty in China.
But, it turns out, Ma didn’t write those words. “The news is completely false,” he told Fortune magazine earlier today.
Chinese netizens have joked that the confusion was caused by a false paternity test.
Of course, if that’s bad news for all of us, just think how Fan Xiaoqin must feel The 8-year-old boy from rural Jiangxi province has become famous online for his striking resemblance to the Alibaba founder. Here’s a picture of Fan:
And here’s one from Jack Ma’s own childhood:
Despite the similarities in appearance, so far “mini Ma” hasn’t shared in Jack Ma’s good fortune. The boy lives in poverty. His mother is sick, his father is missing a leg and his grandmother has developed Alzheimer’s. His life story has touched the hearts’ of netizens across the country, who were really hoping that the Alibaba founder was planning to share some of that sweet Singles Day money with the kid.
While Ma has always been one of the top-ranked charitable figures in China, the fact is that the wealthy in China aren’t well-known for their charitable giving. Back in 2014, before Alibaba went public, Ma and fellow co-founder Joseph Tsai, set up two charitable trusts funded by share options worth about 2% of the company’s equity. A few years later, those trusts are now worth billions of dollars.
Acts like these earned Ma second place on the 2015 Global Chinese Philanthropy list, behind only magnanimous Hong Kong real estate tycoon Li Ka-shing. However, that same year, Ma donated a mere $20 million to charity, or less than 1% of his total net worth — which is now at around $26.5 billion.
Of course, this all confirms what Fan likely already knows, that he’ll have to look after himself in life. With enough luck, maybe he’ll turn out like his doppelganger. The billionaire businessman began as an English teacher and encountered rejection everywhere he stepped early in his career being turned down by KFC and then Harvard 10 tens, before finally founding Alibaba — making the “biggest mistake in his life.”
[Images via Weibo]