Guo Wengui predicted Jack Ma’s fall-out with the Chinese government
US-based Chinese billionaire businessman Guo Wengui (or Miles Kwak, as he goes by in English) had predicted that Alibaba and Ant’s co-founder Jack Ma, will be ‘jailed or killed’ by the Chinese government. In an interview on Realvision conducted in August 2019, Guo said that Ma’s Ant Group is a big problem for the communist party as it challenges the state-run banks.
Back in 2019, these predictions may have sounded paranoid, but they have resurfaced now as Jack Ma has vanished from the public eye. Both of his businesses came under fire of regulators: Ant Group’s IPO suspended and Alibaba under antitrust investigation. Jack Ma hasn’t been in public since October, as the businessman is ‘lying low’ according to CNBC reports. ‘He [Guo Wengui] was right! Jack Ma is missing now and Ant Financial is taken off the IPO. Wow!’ — one user wrote under the Realvision interview with Guo.
Who is Guo Wengui?
Guo Wengui is a Chinese real estate tycoon, who is currently exiled in the US and is possibly one of the most controversial Chinese dissidents. He fled China in 2014, in anticipation of corruption charges, as his political patron was about to be detained. He was accused of defrauding the business partners and colluding with corrupted officials — claims that he denies. In April 2017 Beijing asked Interpol to issue a warrant for Guo’s arrest, which is why he applied for US asylum in 2017.
Since then, Guo drew the ire of the Chinese political elite by accusing some of its most powerful leaders of corruption, extra-material affairs, and murder plots over social media, especially YouTube, where he has over 400K subscribers. China has called the US for Guo’s extradition, which led to a White House showdown, Washington Times reports. Jeff Session, then-Attorney General, threatened to resign if Guo was sent to China.
Some of Guo’s claims are explosive, controversial, or impossible to verify. For example, he accused Chinese officials of sabotaging Malaysia Airlines Flight, which disappeared in 2014 on the way to Beijing, in order to cover up an organ-harvesting scheme. Earlier this year, Guo was linked to a non-peer-reviewed study that alleges the coronavirus began in a Chinese lab, as reported by South China Morning Post.
In the US, Guo has remained close to the political elite and is a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. He is friends with Steve Bannon, a former Trump’s strategist and a former board member of Cambridge Analytica. In June 2020, the two launched the New Federal State of China, a lobby group to overthrow the Communist Party of China.
Has China declared war on its entrepreneurs?
Although Guo’s controversial character has caused distrust even among his fellow dissidents, his predictions about Jack Ma are far from unsubstantial. Jack Ma is not the first Chinese businessman to experience a government crackdown. Soon after becoming president in 2013, Xi Jinping launched a successful anti-corruption campaign that mostly targeted officials. He then took aim at Chinese entrepreneurs.
Among them is Rem Zhiqiang, a former real-estate tycoon, who was named ‘the cannon’ in China, for his outspokenness on social issues. Earlier in 2020, Rem published an explosive essay calling Xi Jinping ‘a clown’ for the government’s handling of coronavirus and was soon sentenced to 18 years in jail charged with corruption and abuse of power.
According to the analysis by The Economist, Chinese officials may give higher scrutiny to those businessmen ploughing money into risky assets abroad, arguing that it’s a cover-up for diverting capital from China. In 2017, CEFC China Energy attempted to buy a 14% stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft for $9 billion. CEFC then chairman and founder, Chinese oil mogul Ye Jianmig, soon watched his empire crumble. A respected Chinese financial news outlet, Caixin, published an explosive investigation into the finances of his company. Days later, Ye had vanished and is reportedly under investigation by the Chinese government.
In 2018, Wu Xiaohui, one of China’s flashiest global dealmakers and the former chairman of Anbang, was sentenced to 18 years in jail for fraud and embezzlement. Anbang, a holding company that mostly deals with insurance and banking, has bought the elegant Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan for a record $1.95 billion. Among the 58 companies, Anbang controlled at the time of Wu’s detention were New York hotels and rescue financing for European firms. In the US, Wu had close ties with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, who he met at the Astoria in November 2016.
Yet the anti-corruption campaign had taken a step further, when China had sentenced Lai Xiaomin, an ex-finance chief, to death for corruption. Lai, who is a former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management, was found guilty of receiving 1.79 billion yuan ($277 million) in bribes between 2008 and 2018. Capital punishment is seldom for such charges, though Lai was the second case after a former vice-mayor sentenced to death in 2018.
For Jack Ma, such ruthless precedent does not give much hope. Whether the businessman is hiding or detained, his business empire will be brought to heel. It’s worth remembering that in an opaque regime, even the rich and famous can see their fortunes change overnight.