Realistically speaking, this is an especially opportune time for this development to arise, both for Ma and for Alibaba's shareholders. With real concerns about the long-term viability of China's manufacturing economy now becoming widespread, a company that focused solely on connecting such businesses with buyers elsewhere in the world would have to be seen as vulnerable. Even as Chinese regulators have forced the company's equity markets to close upon sharp pricing drops in recent days and weeks, the alibaba stock has held up relatively well on markets elsewhere in the world, though.
The reason for this is simply that investors no longer consider Alibaba's founding mission to be the core source of its value. Instead, they have come to listen more closely to Ma's plans for the future, as with a recent deal that gives the company the rights to stream Disney and Pixar movies to viewers in China. The alibaba stock price today reflects not just what must be considered a multi-billion dollar B2B brokerage business, but quite a bit more than that, as well.
In essence, Alibaba is now widely seen as the gateway to China and its hundreds of millions of newly prosperous middle-class residents. While tech companies like Tencent can make a claim to the same thing, the longtime familiarity of Western investors with Alibaba has made them much more comfortable with assessing it. Ma himself obviously recognizes and seeks to leverage this fact, understanding in his own right how he can use this power to build Alibaba up into something even bigger.
Even while many decry the state of China's economy, Alibaba's prospects are therefore looking relatively healthy. While alibaba stock will undoubtedly experience some further pressures as the Chinese equities-market shakeout continues, Ma's vision and the unique role the company has come to play in the minds of Western investors are sure to make a difference.