For years, nobody flew higher in China than Jack Ma, the pixie-faced founder of the $500 billion powerhouse e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba, the Amazon of Asia.
Now he’s vanished and no one knows where he is.
Ma, a member of the Communist Party who famously started out as an English teacher, symbolized the high-tech “China Dream” until he ran afoul of the political leaders who once lionized him. He hasn’t been seen in public for two months.
“China used Jack Ma and Alibaba as well as some of the other big fintech companies to show the world what great leaders they were,” Craig Singleton, a China expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told The Post.
“But these private sector companies were operating without government controls and Jack got a little too far out ahead of his skis. You only have to step out of line once and they’ll get you. He’s probably been smacked pretty hard.”
Insiders told The Post it’s highly unlikely that Ma, 56, has been permanently disappeared to one of China’s feared “black sites” reserved for the country’s dissidents. Nor is he in Singapore, per some rumors.
Instead he’s probably cooling his heels either at home or in a “very cushy location” where one expert said he may be reviewing “Marxist lessons” with party officials, a process called “embracing supervision.”
While building his company into a behemoth almost bigger than China itself, the free-spirited Ma, who’s married with three children, traveled the world. He hobnobbed with stars like Tom Cruise, Daniel Craig, Kevin Spacey and Nicole Kidman, lunched with President Obama and former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and swanned around Davos — all while speaking the fluent English he learned as a kid.
He even dressed up like Elton John or Michael Jackson and performed their songs onstage while cracking jokes before thousands of adoring Alibaba employees at company functions.
He acted more like an American billionaire than even the dour, low-key Jeff Bezos — and that was his mistake, say China analysts. In keeping with his outspoken ways, Ma mouthed off at a conference in Shanghai in October about how backward the country’s state-owned banks and regulators were — just days before Ma’s financial tech firm ANT Group was readying what would have been the world’s biggest IPO.
“Today’s financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age,” Ma declared in the now infamous speech. “We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system.”
Among other things, Ma blasted the country’s bankers for having a “pawnshop mentality.”
Ma’s wings were abruptly clipped. He vanished from the public eye, ANT’s IPO was cancelled reportedly at the behest of Chinese president Xi Jinping — and China has launched an antitrust probe into Ma’s enormous company.
“This is Icarus, a classic case of hubris,” Gordon Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” told The Post. “In Jack Ma’s mind he was a rock star, maybe not more powerful than Xi Jianping but bigger than the Central…