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AliExpress owner forced selling off Chinese media assets

Google News

The Chinese government has asked e-commerce giant Alibaba, the owner of the AliExpress marketplace, to significantly reduce the number of media assets. Local authorities are concerned about the company's growing influence in the media, which could pose a threat to the ruling Communist Party. The Wall Street Journal writes about this with reference to its own sources familiar with the situation.

Founded by billionaire Jack Ma, the online merchandising firm has built a vast portfolio of media assets over the years. In particular, Alibaba owns stakes in Weibo — the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, advertising and TV companies, social networks, as well as print and online publications, including the largest Chinese English-language newspaper South China Morning Post.

The impact that an AliExpress owner can have on public opinion is seen as a major challenge to the Communist Party and its powerful propaganda apparatus, informers pointed out to the WSJ. Alibaba officials in the US and China declined to comment.

It is not yet clear whether the company will agree with the plan for the sale of media assets developed by the PRC authorities. However, any counter-proposal, the interlocutors of the newspaper noted, will require the approval of the country's top leadership.

Alibaba came under the spotlight of Chinese regulators last October after Jack Ma, speaking at a conference in Shanghai, criticized Chinese financial institutions, accusing them of “pawnshop mentality.” In retaliation, Beijing halted the IPO of Alibaba's subsidiary, fintech company Ant Group, which was to be the largest IPO in history.

Last week, the WSJ reported that Chinese regulators are preparing a record fine for Alibaba, the amount of which could exceed $975 million. At the same time, Beijing does not intend to completely “destroy” the giant of Internet commerce, which is popular with Chinese consumers and foreign investors. It would be better for the authorities, the newspaper wrote, if the company distanced itself from its founder and began to adhere to the line of the Communist Party.

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