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Alibaba’s Jack Ma tops Fortune China’s list of influential business leaders in 2020

Huawei’s Ren Zhengfei and Tencent’s Pony Ma took the second and third positions, respectively.

HANGZHOU, CHINA - OCTOBER 25: (CHINA OUT) Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba Group, president of the General Association of Zhejiang Entrepreneurs, makes a speech on the Zhejiang Entrepreneurs Association on October 25, 2015 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

Fortune China, the Chinese edition of American Fortune magazine, released its list of the 50 most influential Chinese business leaders of 2020 on Monday, ranking Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma as the most prominent figure.

Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei ranked second, followed by Wang Chuanfu, founder of electric vehicle maker BYD. Tencent’s founder Pony Ma placed fourth, while ByteDance’s founder Zhang Yiming came fifth.

While Jack Ma, Pony Ma, and Ren Zhengfei were already among the top five in last year’s list, Alibaba’s Ma moved up from fourth to first, while Ren and Pony Ma both moved down.

Fortune China said they put Jack Ma atop the list because he established a sustainable corporate governance system by handing over Alibaba to Daniel Zhang. The magazine pointed to Ma’s original vision of Alibaba lasting 102 years and said the move demonstrates the value of corporate systems and culture over any one person within a company. (Because the company was founded in 1999, that lifespan would mean the company has seen three centuries.)

BYD’s Wang and ByteDance’s Zhang are two newcomers to the top of the list, taking the places of Chen Dongsheng, chairman and CEO of Taikang Insurance Group, and Li Jianhong, chairman of China Merchants Group, respectively.

Wang, ranked 27th on the 2019 list, advanced to the third-place this year as BYD sold more than 230,000 new energy vehicles (NEVs) last year worldwide, including fully electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles, three times Volkswagen’s global NEV sales. Additionally, the firm’s newly launched blade-shaped battery could further raise the automaker’s market share in China, said the magazine.

On the other hand, ByteDance’s founder, Zhang, who ranked 23rd on the 2019 list, advanced to fifth place due to the popularity of short-video app TikTok outside of China, which has been downloaded 1.5 billion times by November 2019—of which 124 million came from the US—according to Fortune China.

The magazine added that in the past year China’s business leaders have continued to demonstrate their influence while being tested by changes in the business environment.  It said that in 2020 the world needs more leadership and cooperation from the business community to heal the wounds caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which will also serve as a lesson for Chinese business leaders.