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Oct 8, 18

Making Monsters: Pony Ma, the “Communist” Billionaire

Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma,  is the second richest man in China, according to the Forbes World’s Billionaires list, which also lists him as the 21st richest person in the world. Ma is a co-founder of Tencent, a social networking company that produces the WeChat app and owns the popular internet game Fortnite.

An article by the South China Morning Post mentioned a study that listed Ma as China’s most generous philanthropist, noting that he donated $2.15 billion dollars in just one year, but, of course, not questioning why he should have the means to do so.

Tencent, worth $540 billion dollars according to the New York Times, came under fire in January 2017 for sexist and degrading work practices. According to Fortune, a viral video showed female employees being subjected to playing an “oral sex game,” during which they were made to get on their knees and use their mouths to try to unscrew a bottle cap from a bottle held between male coworkers’ legs. This scene took place on a stage in front of large numbers of people.

Despite his company making a mockery of sexual assault in the workplace, Time Magazine is a fan of Ma too, listing him as one of the most 100 influential people of 2018 for his contributions to the tech industry.

From Washington Post: Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) shakes hands with Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook (C), as Tencent CEO Pony Ma (R) looks on, during a gathering of CEOs and other executives at Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond, Washington, Sept. 23, 2015.

However, it is worth noting that much of what might serve as Tencent’s competition has been banned in China. Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram, Tumblr, Vimeo, Youtube and several other media giants aren’t accessible in Mainland China because of a giant Firewall, according to Sapore di Cina. According to “Make It” on CNBC, the WeChat app is used by about a billion people, most of them inside China’s firewall.

This is an interesting occurrence when considering that Ma is a member of China’s legislative parliament. Is using political power to snuff out the competition what it takes to make it? If so, you can keep that shit, CNBC.

Despite boasting a communist government, China’s parliament has a net worth of $650 billion, according to the New York Times. The article continues to explain that in the last year alone China gained 210 new billionaires, making the number of China’s billionaires 40 percent higher than that of the U.S.

“The obvious reality is that China isn’t communist at all, in fact- their wealth inequality is worse than that of the U.S, making China more capitalist than any country in the western hemisphere.”

According to U.S. News, the Chinese parliament has 83 billionaires. As wealthy members of the parliament use their positions to accumulate more wealth, the gap between them and the country’s poor grows increasingly wider. The article contents that over 800 million Chinese people live on under $15 a day.

A Forbes article describes how Tencent has quietly managed to amass an empire, swallowing up media and entertainment companies in its climb to power. The article claims that China’s loose policies have allowed the company to reach heights enviable by U.S. tech giants who face more regulation.

Business Insider even lists Tencent as a monopoly, explaining that 60 percent of China’s population uses Tencent apps. The article explains why internet monopolies are popular by theorizing that the higher number of people using a website, the more new visitors it will attract. This especially makes sense in terms of social media and networking apps where the goal is to connect with people, but it doesn’t excuse the monopolization of industries and the hoarding of stolen wealth.

One would think that cases like those of Tencent would be the desirable place for China’s “communist” government to step in and redistribute the wealth and means of production, but that’s the opposite of what is happening. The obvious reality is that China isn’t communist at all, in fact- their wealth inequality is worse than that of the U.S, making China more capitalist than any country in the western hemisphere.

Researching Ma’s voting records in parliament has proven nothing short of impossible, assuming that China’s National People’s Congress or the Communist Party of China even make such things public.

Either way, one doesn’t need to see Ma’s voting record to know his empire is built on the backs of the working class, and one certainly doesn’t have to understand the delicate intricacies of China’s government to know that its existence is inherently oppressive and glaringly anti-communist.

You can oppose Ma by divesting in and taking action against Tencent products and subsidiaries listed here.

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Making Monsters explores the intersections of wealth and power by looking at various contemporary examples of the billionaire class. Written by journalist Luke Gardner.

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