GUANGZHOU • When Mr Jack Ma announced last month that he was stepping down as executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding, the world's largest e-commerce company, his decision caught many by surprise. At an economic forum in Russia, President Vladimir Putin reportedly asked him: "You are still so young. Why are you retiring?"
Maybe Mr Ma, 54, knows something that Mr Putin does not. Two of the three forces, globalisation and marketisation, that have propelled Alibaba to its current US$500 billion (S$690 billion) valuation are dissipating. The third force, technology, is mired in the trade war between China and the United States, and its prospects in China are now uncertain.