Vanishing of the Chinese billionaires

The disappearance of technology industry dealmaker Bao Fan last month has reignited interest in a recent phenomenon in China - the disappearance of billionaires. 

The founder of China Renaissance Holdings, whose clients have included internet titans Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu, is regarded as a tech titan in China. Mr. Bao went missing for several days prior to his company announcing that he was "cooperating with an investigation."

As has become customary, no information has been released regarding the government agency conducting the investigation, the nature of the investigation, or Mr. Bao's location. In recent years, a number of Chinese business leaders have mysteriously vanished, including Jack Ma, the CEO of Alibaba.

There have been a number of cases of Chinese citizens going missing after participating in, for instance, anti-government protests or human rights campaigns, although these cases have received significantly less media attention.

It occurred in the run-up to the annual National People's Congress (NPC), a rubber-stamp parliament, at which this week plans for the most significant overhaul of China's financial regulatory system in years were announced. 

However, confidence in China's financial markets, businesses, and ultimately the economy as a whole is unquestionably at risk. Authorities stated that this would close loopholes caused by multiple agencies monitoring various aspects of China's trillion-dollar financial services industry. Ren Zhiqiang, a billionaire real estate magnate, vanished in March 2020 after calling Mr. Xi has been labelled a "clown" for his handling of the pandemic. After a one-day trial, Later that year, Mr. Ren was given an 18-year prison sentence for corruption. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, was the disappearing billionaire with the most notoriety. In late 2020, the richest person in China at the time vanished after criticising the nation's financial regulators.

The planned mega-listing of Ant Group's shares was abandoned. And despite donating nearly $10 billion (£8.4 billion) to the "Common Prosperity" fund, he has not been seen in China in over two years. In addition, no criminal charges have been brought against him. Mr. Ma's whereabouts remain unknown, although he has reportedly been spotted in Japan, Thailand, and Australia over the past few months. 

The Chinese government has pledged to eradicate corruption and maintains that the actions taken against some of the country's wealthiest individuals are based solely on legal grounds. However, Beijing's actions also take place against the backdrop of decades of economic liberalisation in what is now the second-largest economy in the world.

Beijing maintains that the policy aims to narrow the widening wealth gap, a major issue that, if left unaddressed, could undermine the Communist Party's position. Mr. Xi is rumoured to be under pressure from ultra-leftists who want to move the party closer to its socialist roots due to the growing inequality in the nation.

Some observers of China assert that the government risks discouraging new business talent. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Xi's crackdown on billionaires will significantly assist him in consolidating his power.

However, confidence in China's financial markets, businesses, and ultimately the economy as a whole is unquestionably at risk.