Where Is Bao Fan?

Bao Fan did everything right. Despite being one of China’s top tech investors, Bao kept a low profile and hewed to the Communist Party line. Then, he disappeared.

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From an article out this morning in The New York Times:

…on Valentine’s Day last week, rumors started circulating that Mr. Bao had gone missing. His company later confirmed his disappearance in a regulatory filing.

China’s tech world is watching closely what will happen to Mr. Bao, who knows or has worked with nearly every mover and shaker in the industry. He is not as well known outside the business world but is just as symbolic of the industry’s rising presence in China as Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, who has largely vanished from public view after falling out with the government in 2020.

There’s no one quite like Bao Fan in the United States. Half investment banker, half venture capitalist, Bao was intimately involved in almost every major Chinese tech company.

He brought together warring startups to create giants like Didi and Meituan. Bao prospered, and so did the companies he helped.

His influence reached so far that people said, “If you don’t know Bao Fan, you haven’t made it.”

But new Chinese leaders took a darker view of Bao’s success.

The government began investigating one of his top lieutenants, Cong Lin. China’s government has implied that Bao is assisting in that investigation.

But no one knows where Bao is. Or if he’s even alive.

Clearly, Bao could’ve helped an investigation while retaining his post. It’s more likely he’s being abused and intimidated and as an example to others.

Indeed, China’s tech industry is watching closely:

A tech founder who had worked with Mr. Bao on deals wrote on social media that entrepreneurs were like “frightened birds.” “Confidence is slow to build but quick to dissipate,” he wrote. “Without confidence, who will build factories, start companies and invest in the future?”

Many Chinese entrepreneurs are quietly leaving the country with their millions.

More and more, you will see rich business owners leaving China, along with ambitious young people. Why spend a lifetime building a business if the government can just take it away?

Dictatorship is the ultimate single point of failure. One bad man in the wrong spot, and your country goes down in flames.

Xi is that man. But the Communist system is what gives him the power he has.

From an interview in The Japan Times:

“This is part of the evolution of the Communist Party,” said Drew Thompson, a visiting research scholar at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. “Private entrepreneurs — high-profile, wealthy people — are increasingly incompatible with ‘common prosperity’ and the direction that Xi Jinping has taken.”

What do you think the future holds for Chinese tech? Leave a comment and let me know!

More on tech:

Top VC Firms Have Great Returns…Right?

Google is Losing the AI Race

Consumer Startups: What Works and What Doesn’t

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