Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA) has announced a significant leadership restructure, revealing on Tuesday that co-founder Joseph Tsai will assume the role of Chairman in September. Concurrently, Eddie Yongming Wu has been named as the new CEO. The move is part of a strategic reorganization that sees the company separating its technology services from its retail units.
Tsai’s rise to the top spot is particularly significant for proponents of cryptocurrency and the evolving Web3 landscape. He is a known advocate of these digital advancements and has actively invested in the Web3 space.
As one of the largest corporations in China, Alibaba’s potential shift towards embracing Web3 and crypto could be a signal that China is incrementally warming up to these technologies. Tsai’s leadership may catalyze this transition, given his notable enthusiasm for the sector.
Tsai first announced his interest in crypto and Web3 in December 2021 with a succinct tweet: “I like Crypto.” Although he offered no further elaboration at the time, his subsequent investments tell a story of increasing involvement in the sector.
I like crypto
— Joe Tsai (@joetsai1999) December 28, 2021
Tsai’s family office, Blue Pool Capital, was revealed in January 2023 to be a minority shareholder in FTX, a renowned crypto trading platform. The stake was discovered through court documents, indicating participation in two of FTX’s fundraising rounds. Furthermore, Tsai has been associated with high-profile investments, including Polygon, Web3 fantasy sports platform Fast Break Labs, and NFT platform Artifact Labs.
Tsai’s affinity for crypto extends beyond his personal investments. As the owner of the Brooklyn Nets, Tsai’s influence has also been seen in players Kevin Durant and Spencer Dinwiddie’s ventures into crypto, with both players actively engaged in crypto projects.
However, the broader acceptance of crypto in China remains uncertain. While Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region, has proposed rules for licensed digital asset trading, these regulations are seen as restrictive by many industry insiders.
“Banks have been reluctant to get on board, and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has had to pressure some of the largest names in finance to accept crypto clients,” said Leo Weese, co-founder and President of the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong.
In mainland China, the interest in digital assets on the blockchain is growing, provided they don’t align directly with cryptocurrencies. For instance, Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are allowed as long as they don’t possess any speculative features. In 2021, Alibaba’s Alipay enforced a restriction on NFT sales, requiring users to hold them for 180 days before sale.
Beijing defines Web3 as an internet augmented by artificial intelligence, blockchain, faster computing chips, and more resilient networks, distinguishing it from crypto. As Tsai takes the reins at Alibaba, the business world waits to see if this distinction will blur under his pro-crypto leadership.