China’s Alibaba Tightens Grip on Southeast Asia

China-based cloud and financial services are a threat to America and democracy globallyNews Analysis China’s biggest e-commerce provider, Alibaba Group, is extending its digital payments—and information gathering—into southeast Asia. With a planned majority ownership of the 2C2P payments network, Alibaba’s Ant Group will increase its global payments reach, particularly in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. That’s a threat to America, because China’s financial services expansion in southeast Asia will make it more difficult for countries there to decisively break from Beijing’s increasingly powerful gravitational pull. On April 18, Alibaba’s Ant Group fintech unit announced a “strategic partnership” with 2C2P, which will “accelerate digital payment adoption and innovation.” According to the statement, “The partnership, upon completion, will see Ant Group becoming the majority shareholder of 2C2P.” A man walks past an Ant Group logo at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China, on July 8, 2021. (Yilei Sun/Reuters) In 2018, the Trump administration blocked Ant Group’s acquisition of MoneyGram International Inc., a U.S. financial transfer company, due to national security concerns. However, a move to blacklist Ant Group failed, and the Biden administration revoked Trump’s executive order to ban Ant’s Alipay money payment network. Prior to the increase of tensions with China during the Trump administration, Alibaba sought to compete with Google and Amazon for the provision of cloud services to American customers, with physical data hubs starting in 2015 in Silicon Valley, and later in Virginia. Its customers included Ford Motor Company, IBM, Red Hat, and Hewlett Packard. In 2020, the Trump administration issued a warning against Alibaba and other Chinese national cloud providers, “to prevent U.S. citizens’ most sensitive personal information and our businesses’ most valuable intellectual property … from being stored and processed on cloud-based systems accessible to our foreign adversaries.” Alibaba’s ultimate control over 2C2P will add to Ant Group’s already extensive global payments system of over 1.3 billion users. Last year, Ant Group promised to restructure under the administration of China’s central bank. Beijing has pressured Ant to release its customer data to the regime, a sticking point that helped get Alibaba’s co-founder, Jack Ma, disappeared for three months. The data will likely be used not only for standard financial credit scores, which Ma sought to use it for, but to tune China’s social credit scoring system, which uses social network data and measures of political loyalty to the regime. Those with bad social credit scores are denied the ability to purchase airline and train tickets, for example. 2C2P has extensive reach, including its headquarters location in Singapore, as well as in Thailand and Malaysia. These strengths add to Ant Group’s Alipay network in the region, which in addition to its stronghold in China, has uptake in Malaysia, South Korea, Philippines, and Hong Kong. Labels of digital payment (from top) VISA, WeChat Pay, and Alipay are displayed outside a boutique at a shopping mall in Hong Kong, China, on July 31, 2018. (Reuters/Bobby Yip). 2C2P is spreading throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas as well, according to its website, which lists “international and local card schemes, digital wallets and QR payment providers, over 400,000 alternative payment (APM) points, including convenience stores, kiosks, and ATMs, over 45 currencies worldwide, and over 30 financial institution partners markets.” According to Ant Group’s announcement, “Through the strategic partnership, 2C2P’s extensive pool of merchants inclusive of global and regional brands will be connected with Alipay+, extending its current 250 payment options offering to include even more e-wallets and local payment methods.” Angel Zhao, president of Ant Group’s International Business Group, said in the announcement, “We look forward to supporting businesses’ digitalisation together and creating a connected digital ecosystem across markets in the region.” The announcement claims that 2C2P operates in the e-commerce, airlines, financial services, travel, retail, and hospitality spaces. In August and November, 2C2P announced partnerships with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and China’s UnionPay International. All of this to say that Alibaba appears to be getting a little too big for comfort, when that comfort relies on living in a world in which the most powerful multinational corporations are not beholden to an increasingly totalitarian dictatorship. According to Reuters, U.S. regulators could force Alibaba “to take measures to reduce the risks posed by the cloud business or prohibit Americans at home and abroad from using the service altogether.” The same could be said for Alibaba’s expanding international payment systems. American allies in southeast A

China’s Alibaba Tightens Grip on Southeast Asia

China-based cloud and financial services are a threat to America and democracy globally

News Analysis

China’s biggest e-commerce provider, Alibaba Group, is extending its digital payments—and information gathering—into southeast Asia.

With a planned majority ownership of the 2C2P payments network, Alibaba’s Ant Group will increase its global payments reach, particularly in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia.

That’s a threat to America, because China’s financial services expansion in southeast Asia will make it more difficult for countries there to decisively break from Beijing’s increasingly powerful gravitational pull.

On April 18, Alibaba’s Ant Group fintech unit announced a “strategic partnership” with 2C2P, which will “accelerate digital payment adoption and innovation.” According to the statement, “The partnership, upon completion, will see Ant Group becoming the majority shareholder of 2C2P.”

Epoch Times Photo
A man walks past an Ant Group logo at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China, on July 8, 2021. (Yilei Sun/Reuters)

In 2018, the Trump administration blocked Ant Group’s acquisition of MoneyGram International Inc., a U.S. financial transfer company, due to national security concerns. However, a move to blacklist Ant Group failed, and the Biden administration revoked Trump’s executive order to ban Ant’s Alipay money payment network.

Prior to the increase of tensions with China during the Trump administration, Alibaba sought to compete with Google and Amazon for the provision of cloud services to American customers, with physical data hubs starting in 2015 in Silicon Valley, and later in Virginia. Its customers included Ford Motor Company, IBM, Red Hat, and Hewlett Packard.

In 2020, the Trump administration issued a warning against Alibaba and other Chinese national cloud providers, “to prevent U.S. citizens’ most sensitive personal information and our businesses’ most valuable intellectual property … from being stored and processed on cloud-based systems accessible to our foreign adversaries.”

Alibaba’s ultimate control over 2C2P will add to Ant Group’s already extensive global payments system of over 1.3 billion users. Last year, Ant Group promised to restructure under the administration of China’s central bank. Beijing has pressured Ant to release its customer data to the regime, a sticking point that helped get Alibaba’s co-founder, Jack Ma, disappeared for three months.

The data will likely be used not only for standard financial credit scores, which Ma sought to use it for, but to tune China’s social credit scoring system, which uses social network data and measures of political loyalty to the regime. Those with bad social credit scores are denied the ability to purchase airline and train tickets, for example.

2C2P has extensive reach, including its headquarters location in Singapore, as well as in Thailand and Malaysia. These strengths add to Ant Group’s Alipay network in the region, which in addition to its stronghold in China, has uptake in Malaysia, South Korea, Philippines, and Hong Kong.

Epoch Times Photo
Labels of digital payment (from top) VISA, WeChat Pay, and Alipay are displayed outside a boutique at a shopping mall in Hong Kong, China, on July 31, 2018. (Reuters/Bobby Yip).

2C2P is spreading throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas as well, according to its website, which lists “international and local card schemes, digital wallets and QR payment providers, over 400,000 alternative payment (APM) points, including convenience stores, kiosks, and ATMs, over 45 currencies worldwide, and over 30 financial institution partners markets.”

According to Ant Group’s announcement, “Through the strategic partnership, 2C2P’s extensive pool of merchants inclusive of global and regional brands will be connected with Alipay+, extending its current 250 payment options offering to include even more e-wallets and local payment methods.”

Angel Zhao, president of Ant Group’s International Business Group, said in the announcement, “We look forward to supporting businesses’ digitalisation together and creating a connected digital ecosystem across markets in the region.”

The announcement claims that 2C2P operates in the e-commerce, airlines, financial services, travel, retail, and hospitality spaces. In August and November, 2C2P announced partnerships with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and China’s UnionPay International.

All of this to say that Alibaba appears to be getting a little too big for comfort, when that comfort relies on living in a world in which the most powerful multinational corporations are not beholden to an increasingly totalitarian dictatorship.

According to Reuters, U.S. regulators could force Alibaba “to take measures to reduce the risks posed by the cloud business or prohibit Americans at home and abroad from using the service altogether.”

The same could be said for Alibaba’s expanding international payment systems.

American allies in southeast Asia and elsewhere should consider banning Alibaba’s reach into their private financial lives. That should now include 2C2P and all other companies that will be majority-owned by Alibaba and its units.

Every day, it should be clearer to the United States and allies that the Beijing-Moscow axis intends to rule the world through violent measures like the invasion of Ukraine and Taiwan. Allowing these dictatorial regimes to expand their power and information theft through any means—including the control of financial payments networks and the financial information gathering that these networks allow—should be forbidden by international and domestic laws.

On the issue of Alibaba’s cloud computing “services,” there should be little question about how China’s companies manage to steal up to $600 billion worth of American intellectual property annually. Perhaps it has something to do with a lack of government protection that, for example, allows our biggest American companies to hand over their IP on a virtual silver platter, and pay for the privilege of doing so.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).