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Adam Minter

Propaganda Won't Pay for Alibaba

There's no market for neutered news about the mainland.
The paper has been a thorn in Beijing's side.

The paper has been a thorn in Beijing's side.

Photographer: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Late Friday night, Alibaba’s Jack Ma joined Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as the latest tech billionaire to acquire his own newspaper, by purchasing Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post for $266 million. The paper is the semi-autonomous city-state’s most influential English-language news outlet, as well as a longtime thorn in the side of the Chinese regime. That would appear to pose a problem for Alibaba, which thrives in part because of its good relations with the government.

Executive Vice-President Joseph Tsai claims to see opportunity instead. “When people don’t really understand China and have the wrong perception of China, they also have a lot of misconceptions about Alibaba,” he explained to the New York Times. So in theory, if the SCMP now presents a rosier picture of China and the Chinese economy, Alibaba’s business should benefit as well. “What’s good for China is also good for Alibaba,” Tsai insisted.