China’s biggest e-commerce platform Alibaba is all the buzz right now. The company kicked off its 10-day long roadshow in New York City this morning, for what could be the biggest initial public offering (IPO) of all time. To be traded under the ticker “BABA”, Alibaba set its IPO price at between $60 to $66. If everything goes as planned, the company’s market valuation could hit as much as $200 billion.
For a country that has longed for a world-known home-grown brand for so long, one’d expect a nation celebrating Alibaba’s coming success. Well…not exactly, not everyone in China is cheering. At least not the patriots.
Many ordinary Chinese were practically shocked when they first learned from Alibaba’s IPO announcement that US tech company Yahoo and, in particular, Japanese telecom company Softbank, together had more than 50% shareholding in the company – they’ve so firmly believed that Alibaba is a Chinese company, in the purest sense.
Softbank’s stake in Alibaba doesn’t resonate well with the Chinese at all. The success of Alibaba in domestic market has been a point of national pride for many, especially in contrast to the failure of eBay and Amazon in China. The realization that the biggest shareholder of their “national hero” is a Japanese company left many feel “cheated.”
“So Alibaba is actually a Japanese company? Down with this traitor!” One netizen commented angrily.
It probably could be any country but Japan. The long (unfriendly) history between China and Japan needs no further explanation. What adds to the complication is Chinese government’s intensified anti-Japan propaganda in recently years as the two countries constantly confront each other over a few rocks in the East China Sea.
Earlier last month, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) announced that all prime time TV shows in September and October should be with either patriotic or anti-Fascist themes. In other words, Sino-Japanese war themes. Here we are talking about a national TV that has already been filled with more than enough anti-Japan mini TV series that highlight Japan’s wartime aggression and atrocities. For example, in 2012, 70 out of the 200-something prime-time TV dramas aired in China are about the Sino-Japanese War.
Earlier this Month, on September 3, all 7 members of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s most powerful political body, including Chinese president Xi Jinping, made a rare and first-of-its-kind appearance to commemorate Japan’s World War II surrender, or, in Chinese terms, the victory of China’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. From now on, September 3 will be marked annually.
In one word, the anti-Japan sentiment isn’t going away anytime soon in China. And Alibaba will have to deal with some of the collateral damages. “Shall we boycott Alibaba?” Many netizens asked.
Realistically, it’s impossible to boycott Alibaba as the company controls about 80% of e-commerce in China. But the “Alibaba is a traitor” emotion is true. As one netizen commented: “China’s business miracle belongs to Japan and the US.”
“Alibaba, as a company controlled by Japanese capital, how dare you play the ‘be patriotic and support Chinese business’ card? Do you think us consumers are blind?” One netizen angrily asked. “Alibaba is China’s shame, making money out of Chinese consumers, but only to share profits with foreigners.” Another commented.
The good news is that Alibaba isn’t without supporters, who justified the company’s decision to seek investment from a Japanese company by blaming China’s poor investment environment. As one netizen pointed out: “We are in no position to point fingers at Alibaba. No one, government entity or Chinese company, had the guts or wisdom to offer financial support to Alibaba when it most needed investment.”