Sometimes, it still amazes just how quickly China was able not just to keep up but become a pioneering figure in electronic commerce. It is not for nothing that Chinese companies rank pretty high in online business especially now. One particular big name in that regard is the Alibaba Group, founded in 1999 by a group led by Jack Ma, now one of the most recognizable business magnates in China thanks to this company which had the 9th highest global brand value as of 2018. It has been over two decades since Ma co-founded Alibaba, but now he has decided to walk away from it.
Inquirer.net reports that Jack Ma has stepped down as executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, confirming the initial announcement he gave in September of last year to that effect. His departure took effect on Tuesday, September 10, on the occasion of his 55th birthday. The timing of the founder leaving what is arguably the world’s largest e-commerce company could not seem to come any worse to observers, especially as China continues to lock horns with the US in a trade war that has already begun hobbling other major Chinese businesses such as smartphone maker Huawei.
Not even Alibaba was spared the growing uncertainty due to the tariff conflict between the two economic superpowers. Their online sales during the first half of 2019 was only 17.8% whereas last 2018 the whole-year growth rate had been 23.9%, due to the slowing economic growth. Joe Tsai, Alibaba deputy chairman, assures the media however that their company makes a point to always be properly on-side during the tense US-China trade discussions being held to prevent further conflict on tariffs. The Communist government in Beijing has also promised to increase imports for the sake of their ever-expanding consumer base, something Alibaba can take advantage in.
It is no exaggeration to claim that the Alibaba Group’s e-commerce platform, created by Jack Ma as a bridge between Chinese product exporters and American retailers at a time when the internet was still a curiosity in China, had a major impact in the rise of online businesses in the country, with its capitalist market under Communist oversight. Today they stand with the likes of JD.com, Baidu and Tencent Holding as major pillars in the Chinese online marketplace and entertainment sectors, while connecting them to the rest of the world.
As for Jack Ma, upon stepping down as executive chairman he will take his place in the Alibaba Partnership, a group that has power to nominate most of the company’s board of directors. His successor as chairman is Daniel Zhang, who will move up from his current position as CEO.
Image from Wall Street Journal