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Alibaba IPO Marks China Moving Beyond Smokestacks of Mao

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is preparing to file for an initial public offering in the next few days that reflects an evolution of China’s economy: The high-tech vision of executives like Alibaba’s Jack Ma is edging out Mao Zedong’s dream of a nation covered in smokestacks.

The world’s second-largest economy has reached a tipping point in its drive to become a global technology giant to rival the U.S. or South Korea. Last year, for the first time, electronics surpassed steel as the largest industry by revenue, with the rise of companies like Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp. Alibaba is the latest sign of change, building an e-commerce business that connects buyers and sellers of everything from fruit to forklifts.