Beijing asks Alibaba to get rid of its media assets

The Chinese government has asked Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. to get rid of its media assets, as officials become more concerned about the tech giant’s influence on public opinion in the country, according to people familiar with the matter.

Discussions on the issue have been held since early this year, after Chinese regulators reviewed a list of media assets owned by the Hangzhou-based company, whose primary business is online retail. Officials were stunned by the breadth of Alibaba’s media interests and asked the company to devise a plan to drastically reduce its media holdings, the sources said. The government has not specified which assets should be discharged.

Founded by billionaire Jack Ma, Alibaba has over the years amassed a massive portfolio of media assets that includes print, broadcast, digital media, social media and advertising. Notable holdings include stakes in Twitter-like Weibo and several popular Chinese print and digital news outlets, as well as the South China Morning Post, a leading English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. Many of these holdings are incorporated in the United States.

People said such an influence is seen as posing serious challenges to the Communist Party of China and its powerful propaganda apparatus.

The party’s propaganda department did not respond to a fax request for comment.

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