The chairman and CEO of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group praised Chinese regulators Monday in a possible attempt to repair ties after the stock market debut of its former financial services arm was suspended following criticism of them by billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma.
Beijing’s announcement of proposed guidelines to regulate internet companies is “timely and necessary,” Daniel Zhang said in a speech at the government-organized World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, a town in Zhejiang province, just south of Shanghai.
While Zhang did not specify which regulations he was referring to, China on Nov. 10 announced proposed guidelines on how anti-competition would apply to internet companies. They highlighted potential areas regulators might target, including exclusive contracts, which are common practices used by e-commerce firms and other internet companies.
The move to regulate monopolistic power of China’s technology giants sparked a sell-off in Chinese internet stocks. Alibaba’s stock price in Hong Kong plunged about 10% following the announcement.
The antitrust guidelines came a week after regulators suspended the market debut of Ant Group, the world’s biggest online finance platform, on Nov. 3. That followed a speech in which Ma criticized regulators as backward and an obstacle to business development.
The suspension of Ant’s IPO prompted suggestions that Beijing might be punishing Ma while also tightening controls on potentially risky finance industries.
Ma has yet to publicly comment on the matter since the suspension of Ant Group’s IPO.
Zhang succeeded Ma in 2019 as Alibaba’s chairman, and concurrently holds the role of CEO. Alibaba owns a third of Ant Group, with Ma owning just over 50%, according to the Ant Group prospectus.
“Supervision allows platform enterprises to not only develop well on their own, but also helps the sustainable and healthy development of the entire society and creates innovation,” Zhang said.
“As a member of China’s digital economy, Alibaba is not only a participant and builder of China’s digital economy era, but also a beneficiary,” he said, adding that his company is “full of gratitude for this era.”
Zhang said the success of Chinese internet industries was due to government policies to encourage innovation — a sharp departure from Ma’s complaint that regulators were too focused on risk and were failing to create opportunities for young people.