Three months ago, a screenshot went viral across the Chinese internet. It was supposedly a scene of Alibaba employees gossiping about an eruption of cheers from an office building owned by their sister company, Ant Group. “It is the sound of financial freedom,” the next line read.
On one level this is a story about capital ratios and financial stability; specifically, about whether there should be new rules for new financial institutions to reflect the fact that they’re all online, or whether they should be treated like old-fashioned banks.
On another level it’s about a freewheeling, charismatic tycoon trying and apparently failing to rub along with 21st century Chinese communism. In this sense it goes to the heart of Xi’s 30-year project to crush dissent, consolidate power and bind corporate China tightly to the party and the state.
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