Jack Ma, whose Chinese name is Ma Yun, was born in 1964 into a markedly different China. Communist Party campaigns dominated daily life. His parents performed a type of musical storytelling that was banned during Mao’s devastating Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976.
Ma’s grandfather, a local official under the Nationalist Party that Mao defeated, was persecuted as an enemy of the Communist revolution. Ma and his relatives all suffered at that time, wrote Chinese author Zhang Yongsheng in a 2009 biography.
After twice failing the national college entrance exams, Ma entered what he called “Hangzhou’s worst college.” Graduating in 1988, Ma married his college sweetheart and taught English at a local college for five years, earning $15 a month. During that time, he also applied for, and failed to land, jobs at a local KFC, a hotel and the city police.
Determined to enter business, Ma set up a translation company, but he still had to peddle goods on the street to get by. He traveled to the United States in 1995 as a translator to help a Chinese firm recover a payment. The attempt failed, and the American who owed money pulled a gun on him, Ma says. But a friend in Seattle showed Ma the Internet, and an idea began brewing.
Ma noticed there was not a single online listing for “China” and “beer,” unlike those that popped up for American and German beer. He returned to China and set up a listing site that he later sold to the government. After working in Beijing for an Internet firm under the Ministry of Commerce, Ma returned home to Hangzhou to pursue his dream.
Ma seized opportunities as China was transforming into a market economy. At the time, the Internet was first being promoted, and small, private businesses struggled to get loans and had to compete against government-protected state firms, said economist Feng Pengcheng, director of the China Research Center for Capital Management at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
For a billionaire so outspoken on company and business issues, Ma says little about his family and manages to keep his private life quiet and scandal-free. Ma and his wife Zhang Ying have a son, an undergrad at the University of California-Berkeley, where Ma had audited classes. A black-and-white photo of a young Ma with his older brother and younger sister went viral this month in China’s cyberspace, as many people were unaware their richest citizen even had siblings.
Text Source: usatoday.com