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Jack Ma retires as Alibaba’s chairman (techcrunch.com)
182 points by doppp 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 98 comments

People seem to be missing

> The transition was announced a year ago.

He has been planning on retiring for a while now as he stopped being CEO back in 2013



If they have such bad track records then those should be enough to be negative towards without having to create irrational conspiracy theories about something that had been announced a year ago.

How does it having been announced a year ago make it utterly legitimate? Jack Ma outright owned the company which was not funded by government money. And all the sudden he announces the company is going to be handed over to the government and I am going to become a teacher. Seems a bit outlandish. I don't know of many CEOs that randomly sail off into the sunset. Do you?

You had a post on this thread that started with

> Tinfoil hat on... Maybe the CCP fucked him up somehow.

Yes, a billionaire CEO retiring and staying on the board of the company he started is much less outlandish than your "tinfoil hat" theory.

Nobody ought to be "overtly" negative to anybody. There's plenty bad shit going down in China in the open to not need any unbased gossip and still be be extremely critical of the CCP.


Unfortunately, most people don't care about the "plenty bad shit" going on in China as long as their cheap imports are flowing in. In a Cold War 2.0 scenario, it is absolutely necessary that China be made out to be not only worse than they are, but worse than they possibly can be.

That's my opinion. I'm in favor of any propaganda that causes friction in the rise of the Chinese hegemony.

I think it will be really interesting to see if Alibaba significantly changes after Ma. In silicon valley you absolutely have the cult of the founder - Apple would be nothing without Steve Jobs, Facebook would be nothing without Zuck, everything Bezos touches turns to gold.

People around here seem to have a very low impression of Ma (apparently based on one youtube video), but I can imagine running a huge e-commerce empire in China is non-trivial. I could imagine the personal management of relations with the senior Chinese politicians could be make or break for a Chinese company in a way that US companies simply don't face.

To be fair, that one YouTube video (I’m assuming you’re talking about the one with Musk) demonstrated an astronomical and wide-reaching lack of critical thinking skills. Saying such ridiculous things with such confidence like he did in that video would ruin my opinion of anyone.

How do you compare this to the stream of ridiculous tweets coming from Musk? It seems Musk gets an almost infinite benefit of the doubt while his interview partner is judged on this one performance.

Also we have the issue of language barrier. Jack Ma was doing the interview in English, which for him is probably extremely difficult. I learned Chinese for 2-3 years and can barely order food. If you combine this language barrier with e.g. the cultural desire to save face, you may have someone saying something to say something, without being able to express themselves properly.

I'd say there are a lot of factors at play here and I would withhold judgment for now.

Re English.

According to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Ma:

> "Ma attended Hangzhou Teacher's Institute (currently known as Hangzhou Normal University) and graduated in 1988 with a B.A. in English.[15][16] While at school, Ma was head of the student council.[17] After graduation, he became a lecturer in English and International Trade at Hangzhou Dianzi University."

Ok, that is a good point, I didn't know this in terms of his background. The way he expressed himself at least didn't feel like he had a BA in English.

I don't think he speaks very good English (verbally). But from past interviews, he seem to have quite a good command of it.

I'm not judging either of them based on 1 interview; just saying language is not the reason his is good or bad.

Elon Musk is either trolling (most of the time) or tweeting while upset (e.g. name-calling a British diver -- who initially randomly insulted Musk, telling him to shove his submarine when he was just trying to help), either way you can see some sense behind his actions, even if they're puerile or mistaken.

On the other hand, Jack Ma seemed to very confidently say and dismiss a lot of things without evidence.

Elon Musk makes stupid statements with confidence all the time. You cant just say "he's joking" in hindsight for everything he's wrong about.

There's a big difference between name-calling someone and accusing them of being a paedophile for doing scuba diving in Thailand.

I mean, watch it yourself and decide. I’d find it difficult to see how anyone could come away with anything other than the more-or-less self-evident notion that Ma is a moron, Musk is extremely intelligent, and they’re both egomaniacal, albeit expressed pretty differently.

I don’t see a reason to compare Ma’s complete lack of reasoning skills to Musk’s absurd tweets. That’s whataboutism. Sure, Musk is all sorts of fucked up in his own way, but he’s no idiot; besides, that isn’t what we’re talking about here — unless for whatever reason you’re trying to defend Ma (which, again, seems like a pretty pointless exercise if you watch even a few minutes of that video), Musk’s weird ass behavior (which wasn’t exhibited in the video in question) has no bearing on this discussion.

I don’t have a dog in this race and would really prefer to never meet either of them, as they both seem pretty insufferable. My point is simply that Ma is damn near indefensibly stupid and (unfortunately, a trait that seems on the rise amongst prominent people in the world today) a poster child of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

This is how i compare it.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5VMX1CznCg Ma is woefully over-rated, an imbecile, on the spectrum or all over the above. And the argument that he must have some 4D Chess abilities to make it to the top in China...do you guys think for a company like that, the CCCP would not groom one of their own for the position?

I think people who came away from that video thinking Elon won don't understand the Chinese sense of humour. Jack Ma was trolling the shit out of Elon ("Alibaba AI", "the future is not IQ or EQ, but Love Quotient"), and not only did Elon take the bait, he seemed like he was trying to one-up Ma's ridiculousness. "Protect the light of consciousness!". Musk even managed to mention aliens at one stage. To me it seemed like the kind of video someone might show their children: "Don't do drugs, or else you'll end up publically making a fool of yourself like Musk did!".

I highly doubt your point of view on this. Can you provide any evidence?

This is the man who paid to make a movie of himself beating up Jet Li (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfS9Uf5SKu8), the man who showed up to an annual company event dressed as Michael Jackson and dancing Thriller (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31pwCOSVS0g). If you really think he believes that the "love quotient" is the future of humanity, I've got a bridge to sell you.

In Mainland China to get ahead you need to learn to say a bunch of stuff that nobody believes in, e.g. Maozedong Thought in high school/uni exams. Like political correctness in the West, except few people take it seriously. Ma's points were an example of this: focus on education, focus on AI helping us understand ourselves, focus on growing creativity, focus on what we can do to help the Earth, focus on automation freeing up more time for leisure. Non-controversial platitudes that nobody can really disagree with (at least not in China). Musk completely misses this, and goes out saying all kind of stuff about aliens, superintelligent robots and "biological bootloaders" that sounds completely bonkers to somebody not caught up in the hype (or somebody who actually works with ML). Ma catches on to this and has a field day hamming up his presentation, realising that this game is something Musk is completely incapable of playing. Just imagine how absurd it would be if somebody stood up at Party Congress and started talking about aliens; that person certainly wouldn't be presenting at the next Congress to say the least.

i hate to do this but this sounds exactly like jack ma is the personification of the "i was only pretending to be stupid" meme that is rampant in online culture

Would someone who was only pretending to be stupid pay millions of dollars to produce a movie in which they beat up Jet Li? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfS9Uf5SKu8

If you've got tens of billions, it's goofy to spend millions on silly projects, not stupid.

If you've only got a couple million, it's probably stupid to pay most of it to make a silly project (unless you can sell the results?)

> everything Bezos touches turns to gold.

Just a reminder that Amazon fails all the time at ventures. Amazon Handmade went nowhere. Amazon Register which was set to compete with Square shut down in 2015. They try all kinds of things, many of them very half-heartedly, and fail. Not everything Bezos touches turns to gold.

Don’t forget Fire Phones!

and by non trivial you mean having and maintaining connections to people in power

I would point your attention on this video. It contains the exiled Chinese Billionaire's Accusations of China and also the speculations on what has happened to Jack Ma and what may happen in the future. The video is quite long. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cwXifDaCjE

Not sure why you’ve been downvoted. This is exactly what I thought of when I saw the headline.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cwXifDaCjE this guy i think is predicting the future.

Well he's not dead yet or in jail ;) But will be interesting to see how this plays out.. Are there any good resources summarizing these facts/ allegations or "connecting" them? Would be interesting to dive down that rabbit hole..

No more AI (Alibaba intelligence)

996 for life for some, not for the winners though.

He was almost certainly ousted. Look for Ant Financial to grow in even closer connection with CCP interests. My guess is that Alipay will be used as a means to strengthen international dependence on the RMB. The trail of acquisitions suggests such.

Very exciting and uncertain times we live in!

Edit: this isn’t an anti-China rant at all, just musings based on observations and incomplete data.

He was ousted a year ago and was allowed a year-long transition as the ousted head of Alibaba?

> The transition was announced a year ago.

I think it's entirely possible that he's just selling high after a few decades of hard work.

Ousting to me doesn't mean getting thrown out of the building with your things in a box, it can happen peacefully and gradually. Jack almost certainly has ties to the CCP and a good dialogue with them--it's a necessity to grow a business in that country. My guess is that there was a good amount of pressure gracefully imposed by an outside group to step down.

But maybe he just wants to start a university/cure malaria and move on before China exports slow down.

Not at all, you should read up on the progression of this decision. It's not out of the blue, he announced it more than a year ago.

For the uninitiated, what does all that mean exactly?

My vague understanding is that the Chinese government now have more oversight of one of China's largest (the largest?) companies. Did they not before, or is this a significant indicator of something that has changed?

Read up on the Organization Department of the CCCP


I agree to that, absolutely. Check the video link I have posted. :)The guy talking there also does not make anti-China rant but speaks anti-CPC.


Kinda this Ma has been talking for years that wanted to return as a teacher.

Is it really a disaster that company C level are political or part of a party.

Look up Guo Wengui. He predicted that Ma would resign, hand over his shares to unnamed individuals, and further predicted that Ma would be gone a year after stepping down.

Guo sounds like a crazy man, but his predictions have been on the money so far. Real Vision did an interview with him a while back. You can find it on YouTube.

TL;DR the CCP is still communist and don’t like it when private businesses get too powerful.


The added explanation that "There were approximately 60,000 people with 100 million yuan in the Chinese mainland at the end of 2010" indicates that "billionaire" is not to be taken literally. Chinese doesn't count in powers of one thousand, but in myriads (so millions, billions, trillions... aren't as salient as ten thousand, a hundred million, a trillion...)

Considering that they counted those 72 over a span of 8 years, that works out to 9 deaths per year, or an annual unnatural death rate of 0.015%. I suspect that is lower than for the general Chinese population.

So you can't use those numbers to claim that it would be very likely for Jack Ma specifically to be ousted.

> Can't tell if you're deliberately being disingenuous or if you just don't know,


Your reply is quite insidious and illustrates my comment perfectly.

Strengthen international dependence on the RMB? They might beat the Swiss franc. The RMB is the 8th most traded currency, and counts for 4% of global volume.


Once oil is sold in RMB, it would be vastly different.

anyone ever see when he shared the stage with Elon Musk?

Watching Elon control himself was amazing. the guy was trying so hard to not laugh or verbally slap the guy in public.

*edit for the lazy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSKYWu-S2G0

Honestly, I think Elon came off pretty badly. One the one hand you have someone who’s first language isn’t English but is basically giving a long, hard to prepare for, interview on topics he openly admits he’s not a subject expert on; and on the other hand you have a smug individual who’s first language is English and who is actually making fun of the first guy.

Often their disagreements are more cultural divides (remember Chinese culture and philosophy is radically different from the kind of ideologies held in Silicon Valley) rather than technical mismatches. However that doesn’t stop Musk poking fun at Jack.

I think it’s also worth remembering that Musk has a very high opinion of himself. Some of it is deserved but he is also wrong as often as he is right. So he’s in no position to be making fun of others on stage; let alone for their cultural differences. But I guess that’s always been Musks behaviour (if you take a look at some of the stuff he posts on a Twitter).

Musk is South African. But English was his first language.

Thanks for the correction. I’ll update my post. The first language part is definitely what matters in this context rather than which English speaking country he was born.

Elon was terrible with comical AI doomsday predictions, that no AI researcher including Turing winners Hinton and lecunn endorse. Ma was the only sane voice in the room.

A perfect reminder of why ethics needs to be taken more seriously by Software "Engineers". I don't think we should throw around that title lightly when stuff like this is happening.

People won't die from what we build, but they can easily be denied medical insurance or get harsher sentences because an AI suggested it to a judge (especially those who aren't aware of the technology's limitations).

Building machines to make decisions should not be taken lightly. See: FAA(not N)G companies who ban people without human interaction.

Jack Ma: "I think we should work 3 days per week, for 4 hours a day"

Elon: ????

For those who didn't watch it here are the highlights of that debate https://youtu.be/aHGd6LqAVzw

At least watching the first half of the highlights only, Elon comes off... poorly. And I'm a super fan!


I could say the same about the adoration Musk gets from the Western masses. A man who is born with a silver spoon in one's mouth has carefully crafted this image of him being a life-saving genius. Claims to be working 24/7 on his projects while reality shows he is tweeting most of the time, with as highlight calling someone a pedophile. Vanity projects like a flamethrower and reinventing a metro system but worse. Exploiting his workers. But the masses think he is personally going to live on Mars to save humanity.

Yes you’ve noticed Elon is human, as many of us have. But Jack Ma is... remarkable. You should watch the video.

Funny, I asked my Uber driver what he thought of Travis Kalanick. Also worshiped him.


This was glorious.

End of an era.

As others have mentioned here, the recent “debate” between Jack Ma and Elon Musk was not excellent, but I put that more on Elon Musk. I have listened to other Jack Ma interviews, panel discussions, etc. and I really like his humanistic view of what life could be. People first, technology second.

I like Elon Musk’s enthusiasm for difficult problems, but I didn’t like his (what I perceived) lack of respect for Ma.

A person win debates does not necessarily practice what he say. Jack Ma is famous for encourage employees working overtime, and leads Alibaba to a toxic workplace where HR abuse everyone with their KPI.

The quality of conversation in this thread is really bad. Feels like reddit in here.

reddit has become toxic pool of garbage.

the anti china sentiment that has been driven up by US media and Hong Kong protests alike is irrational and is bordering xenophobia and bigotry.

just a small glance at r/HongKong and you can see images posted out of context with slogans against the police and government, most of which are targeted towards kids in school, sometimes by the same kids.

The HK police, at the behest of a leader chosen by the CCP, are attacking journalists, beating and killing protesters and violating the Sino British joint declaration that determines that HK has their own civil and criminal law. Why would it be bigotry, rather than simple judgement of the CCP for the CCP's actions?

and are you there to witness both sides of the story? i will have a wild guess that no.

I'm not sure what "both sides" of pressing someone's hand into their arm until their wrist snaps is. Nor am I sure what "both sides" of someone being hit with truncheons until they convulse and stop moving is.

Are you saying the footage is faked or something else?

not at all, but you need to consider the context of what happened. the protesters were throwing molotvs.

there are footage of protesters beating the police with equal brutality, but i guess you won't find it on reddit.

i'm ending my discussion here with you, you can choose to consume and believe whatever media you like.

my 2 cent was that reddit is a cesspool of propaganda now.

You were writing about images being posted out of context. I'm still struggling to determine the context that would make these things (or other things, like slowly sinking your thumbs into a hospital patient's eyes while they're restrained) OK. You've replied by discussing other incidents, which doesn't answer the question.

> the anti china sentiment that has been driven up by US media and Hong Kong protests alike is irrational and is bordering xenophobia and bigotry.

Yes, it's quite bad but at least these days they can't be overtly racist. Look at the American anti-China campaign in the 50s and 60s, it was appalling.

Seriously. Since 2016 reddit has been slowly imploding, seems like 50% of all discussion is political these days. On r/bestof probably 30% of all comments reference trump.

For a non american not interested in american politics or your cold war in China, the whole site is becoming a useless pile of noise.

You can also look at /r/China for your daily dose of "China is the devil"

I found it a little unfortunate that one of the threads was so dismissive of NYT [1] due to a SCMP article [2]. I checked archive.org's original snapshot of NYT article [3] and Newsdiff [4] to try to make sure that NYT didn't edit the original article in response, and sure enough they were all worded "planned to step down" and "Mr. Ma will remain on Alibaba's board of directors and continue to mentor the company's management", which is accurate.

I suppose the lesson I'm taking away is to not buy into a counter-reaction immediately. It's obvious in hindsight: SCMP is owned by Alibaba after all.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17940919

[2] https://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2163376/jack...

[3] https://web.archive.org/web/20180907230109/https://www.nytim... (may need to turn off JS)

[4] http://newsdiffs.org/article-history/https%3A/www.nytimes.co...

Thank you for your documented insight. In spite of our best intentions, we—as a community—often do judgement mistakes. One thing that I've been meaning to do is to write postmortems about our reaction to some events, and their eventual outcome. This would help us improve the way that we digest information.

One particularly interesting subject to cover would be Bloomberg's alleged “Big Hack”[1]. Between the initial publication and the final denial by all the involved companies, a lot of different narratives have emerged and gained traction here—and most of them turned out to be incorrect.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18138328

> I suppose the lesson I'm taking away is to not buy into a counter-reaction immediately. It's obvious in hindsight: SCMP is owned by Alibaba after all.

Let's not be so dismissive of SCMP either. They're accurately reporting what an Alibaba spokesman said about Ma. The objection doesn't seem to be about the parts where the NYT says that he "planned to step down" and "Mr. Ma will remain on Alibaba's board of directors and continue to mentor the company's management", which is accurate, but the other parts where they call it "retirement." Evidently he thinks that his plans for the future should still be considered active involvement with the company.

after elon interview :)

Maybe Mark Zuckerberg should take a hint like this

Let's arrange a debate for zuck and musk!


Since when did we endorse conspiracy theories on HN?

That is a dissident talking to a successful hedgefund manager.

Kyle Bass is hawkish on China particularly CPC but calling him or real vision a conspiracy theory outlet reflects a willful blindness.

Successful? I wouldn't go so far as to call him that. I used to watch Kyle Bass youtube interviews bc his arguments are interesting. But when I researched his track record, I stopped. It appears, after his win in the 2007/8 CDS crisis, he has been wrong non-stop: his EU short in 2009 went south, his bet on Japan debt bubble burst didn't materialize (losing 61% investor money in the process), and his famous nickel bet became an Internet meme...

He's now betting on HK and China's impending collapse. It could happen, but I wouldn't trust him too much.

Did Jack Ma not hand over his shares to five unnamed individuals? That is what is being said here, everything else is irrelevant in this context.

You are talking about 10-12 year old stuff and he still has his shop.. so I guess he is successful in being in the business - if that makes you happy.

His recent 8-year annualized return is 1.56%. Very successful indeed. Hope he keeps his job.

I guess so - but again this the interview of the Chinese billionaire.

Guo Wengui is of course not just a dissident, he's a billionaire (or former billionaire; hard to tell post fleeing China) that the Chinese Government has wanted to force to be returned to the mainland for likely execution or long-term imprisonment (having been accused of just about every crime they could slap him with). Guo Wengui believes the Chinese Government wants to murder him. It's obvious he must be saying something interesting to make China so extremely angry.

Conspiracy theories are important because a part of them are usually true. Of course the problem is that it’s hard to get data about which part is true and which isn’t.

Jack Ma is still not dead and I don’t believe he would get to prison. He’s just a puppet at this time.

HN hates China. You can tell from the dialogue and tone whenever it is brought up. Objectivity is out of the window, all of a sudden.

When it comes to America and the beloved companies, there is always justification. The other day it was privacy and ability to unsubscribe. HN was justifiably ranked really really terrible. Of course everyone came to its defense.

Then of course the tyranny of the majority on this beloved forum, though not any participant is willing to accept it.

HN needs Dave Chappelle.

You aren't saying much with your message other than you think HN, a group containing people with a wide swath of opinions on things, "hates China" and your reasoning is a bit incoherent. I can't even tell what that last line is suppose to mean. HN needs a millionaire to come in and... tell jokes?

Lots of people on HN probably hate China and post accordingly, but that doesn't mean everyone does. Hateful posts tend to get downvoted or flagged.

If you want to know what the majority thinks, you need to find a top post that wasn't flagged and didn't attract so many comments it was downranked by the flamewar detector, because otherwise the majority won't even see it. Then wait a day or two for the ranking to stop changing and check the top comment. I think you'll find it much more reasonable than whatever appears at the bottom with "showdead" turned on.

Always the tyrants that fashion dressing in flags

No shit HN hates China. How can you actually LIKE China?

China is literally one of the worst countries in the world at this current moment. Their ethnic cleansing, treatment of minorities, extreme censorship and state control does not make them a likable country.

I like China. Of course I hate the government. The country is super exciting though and it's very sad that it's ruled by such dystopian regime.

Oh wow

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