The company billed itself as the future of finance. In fact, its launch was going to be the occasion for the single biggest IPO in history, with some $34.4 billion in stock due to be listed on the Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock exchanges 5 November. Behind it all was Jack Ma, China’s richest man. Yet on 3 November, just two days before it the IPO was due, the Chinese government stepped in to force the IPO’s postponement. The decision is rumoured to have come from the very top – that is, from President Xi Jinping himself.
The affair has been cast as something of a showdown between the Chinese State and its most successful entrepreneur. There is, perhaps, an element of this, but, more fundamentally, these events give us a wider insight into the forces that stand to transfigure global finance.