A forward-thinking approach and dogged approach to business are part of what made Alibaba one of the world’s largest tech firms. While the company has displayed the same qualities in adopting blockchain, it has kept a tad mum on cryptocurrency adoption. Now, it is speaking out.

Powering the Financial System of the Future

Over the weekend, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma spoke at the Bund Summit in Shanghai. According to a report on Bloomberg, he threw his full weight behind digital currencies for the first time. 

As the Bloomberg report explained, Ma had primarily attacked global financial regulators and their seeming reluctance to accept innovation in the financial system. To that end, he encouraged China, as well as other countries, to embrace development through their economic policies. 

The billionaire highlighted the Basel Accords, which were issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) as a means of guiding banking sector regulations in the wake of the global financial crisis. Maa likened the accords to a club for the elderly, explaining that China will need to innovate and build a healthy ecosystem that fosters growth and development. 

The need for healthy innovation brought the billionaire to the topic of digital currencies. As he explained, these currencies could help provide a foundation for the type of financial system required in the next three decades.  

“Digital currency could create value and we should think about how to establish a new type of financial system through digital currency,” Ma said in part. 

Fear of the Man 

The speech drew reactions from some top crypto industry players. Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of the top crypto exchange Binance, called the address “amazing” in a tweet, adding that Ma had essentially endorsed cryptocurrencies for China’s future. 

Amazing speech by Jack Ma. Not easy to be so openly commenting on regulations in China. Talked a lot about cryptocurrency and the future. It’s in Chinese, not sure of there is an English transcription available. https://t.co/NX5jTpi3NU

— CZ Binance (@cz_binance) October 25, 2020

However, Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin had questions concerning what Ma had meant by “digital currencies.” Replying, Zhao explained that the translation of Ma’s comments was up for interpretation. However, given China’s stance on cryptocurrencies, that was as far as the billionaire could have gone without getting into hot water for the speech. 

The literal translation of the word he used is “digital currency”. In the Chinese culture, the meaning is up for interpretation. That’s pretty much as far as he can push without getting into serious trouble for such a speech. He did push a lot of buttons though. Respect!

— CZ Binance (@cz_binance) October 25, 2020

Ma is currently treading some uncharted territory, especially as his company appears to be the focus of some antitrust allegations in China. In July, Reuters reported that the Peoples’ Bank of China had recommended an antitrust probe into Alipay, the payment processor from Alibaba’s subsidiary Ant Group, and its competitor WeChat Pay. The report explained that the Bank had accused both firms of stifling competition in their fields and had recommended that the State Council’s antitrust committee sanction them. 

Citing statistics, Reuters explained that China has one of the world’s largest mobile payment sectors, with about $8 trillion in transaction volumes over the last quarter of 2019 alone. Alipay and WeChat Pay hold 55 and 39 percent of the market respectively, and the government is now reportedly wary of their size. 

Not much has come from the investigations since then. However, Beijing has developed a reputation for swinging into action with ruthless efficiency when engaged. So, it’s understandable that Ma would want to mind his words.

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