Vladimir Putin made a very untimely cameo appearance on China’s financial scene this week. Well, not literally. But it was hard not to see Beijing’s takedown of Jack Ma’s Ant Group as anything but Putinesque.
Ma is, after all – arguably – the closest thing China has to an oligarch who thrives at the pleasure of a state that tolerates his monopolies. One who’s not gotten a bit too big for his britches – or gone too big internationally – for the leader’s comfort.
The Ant Group initial public offering that’s been disappeared was to be a hinge moment for China Inc. This was the moment Xi Jinping’s economy was going to prove homegrown success could create world-beating wealth.
Instead, Xi’s men may just have created a new verb to be coined in financial circles: “To get Jack Ma-ed” is when a government snatches financial defeat from the jaws of victory.
We’re all trying to snatch some logic from what happened. Why would Beijing scuttle a giant IPO that was set to remind Donald Trump’s America and the rest of the world just where the economic future lies?