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The Big Take

Beijing Crackdown Derails Alibaba’s Bid for Amazon-Size Profit

The company’s aspirations to become a giant in cloud services are increasingly under threat.

Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou.

Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

For years, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. had a legitimate shot at becoming the Inc. of China, an e-commerce juggernaut that would use its customer relationships and technological prowess to dominate wide swaths of the internet landscape. Its market valuation soared to more than $850 billion in 2020 as it expanded into new businesses and closed the gap with its U.S. rival.

Beijing’s crackdown on the private sector has laid waste to that strategy. Alibaba’s core e-commerce operation is under siege from regulators, and its finance arm has been forced to pull back from some of its most lucrative initiatives. But nothing may illustrate its changing fortunes more than the recent troubles of its cloud computing operation, Aliyun, which is often referred to as AliCloud.  (The English translation of yun is cloud.)