An embattled China, which is already at its wit’s end on how to check the exodus of the foreign companies from the “world’s factory”, is now facing a new crisis.
Not just global companies, but even Chinese companies like Alibaba and TikTok are also looking beyond the Dragon in order to embrace the realities of a post-Coronavirus world. The COVID context has forced TikTok to make cosmetic changes and give itself a global outlook, whereas Alibaba has been spending heavily on donations and humanitarian aid to find favour with the rest of the world.
One distinctive feature of Chinese companies is the close ties that they maintain with the Communist Party of China (CCP). It is not possible to carry on business in China without the blessings from the CCP. In case of tech companies like Huawei, TikTok and Alibaba, this translates into an inherent security risk for other countries.
TikTok, for example was preempted by many as a dangerous platform during its nascent stage itself, as it got reduced a political tool of the Chinese Communist Party.
However, in recent times, particularly in the backdrop of global outrage against China for its obvious complacency and perhaps involvement in the COVID-19 outbreak, the app is looking at distancing itself from the Chinese regime.
TikTok doesn’t want to be identified as a “Chinese app”, and therefore it is trying to give itself a global outlook by roping in Kevin Mayer, former streaming chief at Walt Disney, as the CEO of the app, and COO of the parent company, ByteDance.
With this, the CCP-affiliated app, TikTok wants to tell the world that an American executive is now handling the video-sharing, social networking app.
Not just TikTok, but another leading Chinese company Alibaba is trying to distance itself from the Xi Jinping regime albeit in a much subtler manner.
Jack Ma, co-founder of the Alibaba group and the richest Communist in the world, also happens to be a CCP member. In the past, he had said that he would happily hand over all his businesses to the party if it so desires.
But now Alibaba might be trying to distance itself from the CCP. The e-commerce and internet giant has been trying to earn the world’s goodwill at a time when Beijing’s goodwill and credibility is at an all-time low.
The conglomerate has donated millions of dollars in medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to all parts of the world- India, Latin America, the United States and Africa. Jack Ma’s foundation is donating masks, ventilators and other medical equipment to countries around the world.
Jack Ma even said, “No single country can handle this crisis independently,” during an online seminar organized by his foundation for African doctors to interact with “Chinese experts”.
Jack Ma has donated 1,000 ventilators to New York, apart from millions of masks to all parts of the world. In fact, when the Pandemic was still in its early stages in the month of January, Ma had pledged 14 million dollars for developing COVID-19 vaccine.
Such donations are coming from a Chinese conglomerate which is rather unusual given that philanthropy in China has always been more local than global.
According to Edward Cunningham, a research of Chinese philanthropy said that philanthropy has grown in China as its economy flourished over the past few decades, but the donations have been focussed on China or on foreign Universities with family connections to donors in a bid to expand Chinese influence in foreign Universities.
But why is Jack Ma suddenly trying to help other countries amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic? The fact remains that Alibaba wants to give a loud and clear message to the rest of the world, viz. the Xi Jinping regime has slipped the world into a Pandemic but the conglomerate is trying to help the world.
Through global philanthropy and image makeover, the Chinese firms want to dissociate themselves from the CCP. China’s ‘mask diplomacy’ too has boomeranged and Beijing hasn’t been able to project itself as the saviour of the world. So, Alibaba started a ‘mask diplomacy’ of its own- independent and separate from the Chinese government.
The Coronavirus Pandemic and China’s alleged involvement in aggravating the health crisis has driven a deep wedge between China and Chinese companies.
Alibaba and TikTok do not want to go down the same path as Huawei. They want to distance themselves from the CCP and abandon Beijing amidst the ongoing Pandemic.