The curious case of ‘missing’ Chinese entrepreneurs

Earlier it was Jack Ma of Alibaba fame and now Bao Fan, the chairman and CEO of investment bank China Renaissance, who has gone missing under mysterious circumstances. The shareholders and management of China Renaissancewere not able to reach Mr. Fan for 2 dayswhich, as per CNN, led to the valuation of his company going downhill to 50%. The officials of Beijing based equity firm believe thatBao’s sudden absence might be related to the business or operations of the group.

Mr. Bao’s disappearance has an uncanny resemblance to what happened to Jack Ma after he gave a fiery speech accusing Chinese regulators and state- owned banks of misdeeds in Shanghai in October 2020.Jack Ma was suddenly out of public view for three months in the middle ofagovernment-backed campaign in late 2021. This anti-corruption campaigntargeting the $60 trillion financial sectorin China was designed to silence voices of dissent challenging the supremacy of Chinese president Xi Jinping and his policies.

Jack Ma recently announced that he is giving upthe control of the Chinese fintech giantAnt Group, a move seen as the aftereffects of his daredevil act against the Chinese regime.Ant Financial,a digital payments firm in China, would have most likely made Jack Ma the richest man in China,but now, instead, he is forced to keep a low profile.

Next on cards is Bao Fan, a high-profile banker, who was instrumental in initiating the 2015 merger between leading food delivery services, Meituan and Dianping in China. The recent turn of events has given rise to speculations that Beijing is leading a major crackdown on top finance and tech figures in order to suppress public outcry against Chinese regime.

Even Cong Lin, president China Renaissance,was taken into custody and interrogated by the Chinese officials in September 2022 over his previous work at the state-owned ICBC bank.

There was no official statement from China Renaissance regarding the Cong’s arrest and his current situation. Apparently, he no longer appearson the list of executivesin the recent interim report of the firm.

It seems the president Xi Jinping has evoked a history of Chinese executives suddenly vanishing for periods of time with no explanation. Forbes magazine recently claimed that a dozen of billionaires in the past few years have gone missing for a smaller period of time after their reporteddisagreements on policy matters with the Communist Party. These people were often taken in under suspicion of beinginvolved in corruption, tax evasion or other misconduct activities.

Some of the popular absences include that of Fosun group founder Guo Guangchang, who has been called the Warren Buffet of China, who vanished for several days in 2015.

Chinese-Canadian businessman Xiao Jianhua, one of the richest men in China, was taken in 2017 and last year jailed for corruption.

All these sudden acts high-handedness by the Communist party of China has led to a sense of fear among the businessmen of China, who have decided to leave their homeland and move abroad for good.

The year 2022 was very challenging for the Chinese entrepreneurs, who while being under scanner by the government were also aghast of the harsh “zero COVID” policy. They were forced to look for safe havens outside and locations like Singapore, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Malta, London, Tokyo, and New York ensured a much better personal safety for them and their families.

Most of these businessmen do not want to be at the mercy of the tyrant Chinese government anymore. Fed up of the recent crackdowns, where Chinese leadership went after its most prominent entrepreneurs and decimated their businesses, most of these high-profile individuals decided to relocate their respective businesses to other countries and build their reputation from the scratch.

A major chunk Chinese economy has taken a hit in last decade majorly because of vilifying nature of the government against these entrepreneurs. Chinese entrepreneurs who have settled abroad and are earning their livelihood in fearless environment in multiple cities in Asia, Europe and the United States have come out in protest of Chinese bullying.

Talking about the restrictions and agony faced by Chinese entrepreneurs, Aginny Wang, co-founder of a crypto banking startup, Flashwire, who moved from Beijing to Singapore, said “When you don’t have a say in how a government makes rules, you don’t have to stay there.There are many other places where you can do things.”

Singapore is a favorite destination for the Chinese entrepreneurs to successfully run their businesses. J. C. Huo, founder of Lotusia, an advisory firm that handles business registrations and visa applications in Singapore, cites his ever-expanding Chinese clientelefor past few years.Most of them experts in the field of education, games, cryptocurrency and fintech industries

— are also target of government crackdowns.

Beijing has highlighted itself negatively in global diaspora where these crackdowns on Chinese business people are seen as an act of oppression.

Many countries are now wary of Beijing’s influence on Chinese businesses and they are doubting the safety of the personal data on the Chinese servers. Moreover, the investments done by Chinese firms in other countries can be an attempt to weaken a country’s national security.