Jack Ma Engineered Alibaba’s Breakup From Overseas
Globe-trotting billionaire, in calls to executives, used his influence to push company’s plans to split into six groups
The restructuring of Alibaba Group into six independent groups carries two layers of implications.
The first layer is commercial. Alibaba claimed that by doing so the enterprise can be more agile and nimble on decision-making to meet market challenges.
The second one is political, which I personally think is a more important one.
For years the Chinese government has been uneasy about tech giants and the influence and prowess they possess. Jack Ma, who criticized the banking system in China in 2020, briefly disappeared from the public afterwards. Although Ma did reappear in the public spotlight sporadically, he has kept a really low-profile since then. Alibaba's reorganization is considered a move against the regulatory crackdown from the top brass.
The six groups include:
- cloud computing
- Chinese e-commerce
- global e-commerce
- digital mapping and food delivery
- media and entertainment
There is still something intriguing. Although the six groups can hire their own CEOs and go public separately, the domestic e-commerce BU group will still be wholly owned by Alibaba. Not sure if this has something to do with the data control of more than one billion domestic online users. I assume this is a useful clout for Alibaba to protect itself from the state's hegemony.
- globe-trotting 全世界走透透的
- orchestrate 指揮
- breakup/ split-up （公司）拆開
- nimble 敏捷的
- peripatetic 走透透的
- speculation 猜測
- strike a deal 達成協議
- tycoon 大亨
- antitrust 反托拉斯法
- overhaul 重新整頓
- barometer 晴雨表
- regulatory crackdown 監管打壓
Chinese billionaire Jack Ma orchestrated from overseas the corporate breakup of the e-commerce empire he built, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., according to people familiar with the matter.
注意一下，according to people familiar with the matter 是新聞英語常用的寫法，中文就是「知情人士表示」。
Despite having stepped down as executive chairman of Alibaba in 2019, Mr. Ma remained an influential figure at the company and is active in deciding its strategy, the people said. In recent months, he held calls with Alibaba’s top executives, including the current Chairman and Chief Executive Daniel Zhang, urging them to split up the company, saying it would make it more nimble and competitive in China’s increasingly crowded market, the people said.
The peripatetic Mr. Ma, who late last week traveled to Hong Kong where he has a luxury home, was initially planning to head to Japan early this week, according to people familiar with the matter. It remains unclear what prompted the sudden change in his itinerary, and the tycoon’s trip home has sparked speculation as to whether he had struck any deal with China’s government.
It remains unclear是常用句型，可譯為「目前尚不清楚的是...」， It remains unclear what prompted the sudden change in his itinerary 意思是「目前尚未得知何者原因造成馬雲行程突然更改」。
spark speculation 可翻譯為「引起外界議論紛紛」。而 the tycoon’s trip home has sparked speculation as to whether he had struck any deal with China’s government. 可翻譯為「馬雲的返家（中國）引起外界臆測是否他已經與中國政府達成協議。」
The country’s most famous tech billionaire had largely retreated from the public eye since the business empire he built came under Beijing’s scrutiny more than two years ago.
這一小段主要是交代一個背景，說明為何馬雲的動向如此重要，因為兩年多前阿里巴巴被中國政府盯上（came under Beijing’s scrutiny）。
retreated from the public eye可翻譯為「從公眾消聲匿跡」。
Its affiliated fintech giant, Ant Group Co., had its blockbuster IPO called off by Chinese regulators at the 11th hour in late 2020 along with demands to overhaul its business.
這一段有個重要片語：at the 11th hour，意思是「在最後一刻」。
The rest is history. 接下來的發展，就是我們所熟知的。
The tycoon’s return in recent days followed repeated outreaches over recent months from Beijing, through retired Communist Party officials and fellow tycoons, people familiar with the matter said. The message they brought sought to appeal to Mr. Ma’s patriotism: It’s time to come back and contribute to China’s development, the people said.
Those entreaties began after the conclusion of the 20th Party Congress in November that saw Chinese leader Xi Jinping tighten his grip on power, the people said. After China’s legislative gathering in early March, new premier Li Qiang devoted much of his first news conference to reassuring entrepreneurs of Beijing’s support for the private sector.
習近平在去年十一月份中國二十大會中抓緊權力（tighten his grip on power），但新總理李強卻在今年三月份首場記者會上，強調對私人企業的支持。
Although Mr. Ma has been absent from the spotlight, his every move has made headlines, and he still casts a long shadow over China’s business environment. His fortunes are viewed at home and abroad as a barometer of Beijing’s attitude toward private enterprises.
cast a long shadow 意思是「蒙上陰影」，barometer原意是晴雨表或氣壓計。
“Beijing seems eager to show that prominent entrepreneurs like Jack Ma, once hailed as visionaries and then vilified by the government, are now welcome back in China,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University and a former China head at the International Monetary Fund.
once hailed as visionaries and then vilified by the government 意思是，過去曾被盛讚為有眼界的人，但後來卻被政府視為寇讎。
Mr. Ma’s celebrity tycoon status in China, coupled with the outsize influence of tech giants including Alibaba, was out of step with China’s leaders. Regulators later carried out a wide-ranging two-year regulatory crackdown on tech firms that has only recently shown signs of easing up.
To formally split Alibaba into pieces was a thornier task. One of the challenges would be how to place various company veterans and executives, the people said. Many group-level executives would either have to retire or take positions at the subsidiaries.
It was the efforts of Mr. Ma—who still commands respect and loyalty from senior staff—that moved the needle in the decision to split the company, the people said.
move the needle原意是移動儀表板指針，引申為做出正面改變，全句可翻譯為「資深員工仍然尊敬並效忠的馬雲，最終在公司重組一事做出正面改變」。
The news of Alibaba's restructuring into six independent groups has sparked varied discussions and speculations.
This WSJ report indicated that Jack Ma is the main driver behind the corporate shift.
To me it is dubious to believe that patriotism was the only reason convincing Jack Ma's return, if any.
On the one hand, the regulatory crackdown on the private tech sector by the Chinese government might ease temporarily, but no one can guarantee that CCP will not tighten its grip again in the future.
On the other hand, China needs domestic talents to be motivated and form a united frontline to fight against the US in the technological battle. To achieve this goal, the government has to assure the private sector that the good will from the top brass is true and will last.
Alibaba's fate along with Jack Ma's next step carry significant implications to China and the world.