Things are weird over in China, right now. Jack Ma's empire is being dismantled. Billionaires are being jailed or going missing. And then there's this recent story of billionaire Wang Xing. Wang has reportedly been warned by the government to lay low after he posted a poem that sent the stock market into a frenzy and sparked a social media firestorm. The 1,000-year-old poem he posted is from the Tang Dynasty and is generally considered to be critical of the government. And if there's one thing we know about China today, it's that you don't criticize President Xi Jinping or his government. Xing was told not to "court the spotlight," according to people familiar with the situation.
The poem describes the burning of books during the reign of China's first emperor. The posting set off a $26 billion selloff of food delivery company Meituan's shares over 48 hours. Xing claims his post was merely calling out the short-sightedness of his own industry. Investors didn't see it that way, however, and they compared it to the criticisms Alibaba founder Jack Ma issued against regulators last year, which resulted in the cancelation of the IPO of his Ant Group, and a massive crackdown on China's internet companies.
Xing is the founder of Meituan, China's third-largest tech company.
Meituan is also in the midst of being probed by China's antitrust watchdog unit over what they allege is monopolistic behavior. It is expected that Xing and his company will face fines of more than $700 million. Officials in Beijing announced the investigation into Meituan in April. It is examining whether the food delivery company violated anti-monopoly laws through forced exclusivity arrangements.
Xing has stayed under the radar since the warning. After all, he's seen what's happened to other billionaires and celebrities in China when they ignore the edict of the authorities. He abruptly stopped posting to his Fanfou account. Fanfou is a social media platform Xing founded before Meituan. Before the controversy, he typically updated his account several times a week. Xing has not been seen or heard from outside of a short appearance on Meituan's quarterly earnings call in May.
Xing didn't face more recrimination from the government because they allegedly didn't want to give the impression that every single minor transgression will result in major consequences, especially since the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party is on July 1.