Fan Bao, CEO of China Renaissance
Fan Bao founder and CEO of China Renaissance speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach. Reuters / Mike Blake


  • Bao Fan, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of China Renaissance Holdings, went missing last month
  • Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, was the richest person in China prior to his disappearance in 2020
  • Real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang vanished after calling Xi a "clown" for handling the pandemic

The most high-profile billionaires in China are disappearing with little to no explanation about them, leading to a rekindled interest in the reason behind the phenomenon of vanishing billionaires.

Last month, Bao Fan, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of China Renaissance Holdings and one of China's top investment bankers, was reported missing by his company which stated that they were unable to contact him.

The list of clients in China Renaissance Holdings included internet giants like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent.

Bao went missing for days, following which the company announced that he was "co-operating in an investigation being carried out by certain authorities in the People's Republic of China".

However, there has been no updates about Bao's whereabouts or which government body is carrying out the probe.

Bao's disappearance has renewed speculations that this is one of the ways President Xi Jinping is tightening his control on China's economy.

His mysterious disappearance is not the first as there are a number of other Chinese business leaders that have gone missing in the last few years, including Alibaba's founder Jack Ma, real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, and more.

However, these disappearances aren't limited to the vanishing billionaires who tend to get a lot of attention. There have also been reports of numerous cases where Chinese citizens have gone missing after taking part in anti-government activities like protests, human rights campaigns, etc.

It came in the run-up to the annual National People's Congress (NPC), a rubber-stamp parliament, where plans for China's financial regulatory system's biggest overhaul in years were announced this week.

A new financial regulatory watchdog will be established to oversee the majority of financial sectors. Authorities stated that this would close current gaps caused by multiple agencies monitoring different aspects of China's trillion-dollar financial services industry.

The disappearance of top-ranked tennis player Peng Shuai

Peng Shuai a former top-ranked doubles tennis star from China, went missing in November 2021 following which hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai was trending online. She had won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014, and more.

According to reports, Shuai had claimed that former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her on social media platform Weibo. Following this, her post was deleted from the platform and she went missing, before she re-appeared in Beijing, China weeks later.

The disappearance of Guo Guangchang, chairman of Fosun International

In the year 2015, at least five executives became untraceable, including the chairman of conglomerate Fosun International, Guo Guangchang. The company is best known in the West for owning English Premier League football club Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Guangchang went missing in December of that year, and following his reappearance, his company announced that he had been assisting with investigations.

The disappearance of billionaire businessman Xiao Jianhua

Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese-Canadian businessman, was taken from a luxury hotel in Hong Kong two years later. He was one of China's wealthiest people and was imprisoned for corruption last year.

In March 2020, billionaire real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang vanished after calling Xi a "clown" for handling the pandemic. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison on corruption charges later that year, following a one-day trial.

The disappearance of Alibaba's founder Jack Ma

The most well-known case of high-profile billionaire disappearance is of Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba. He was the richest person in China at the time of his disappearance. He vanished after criticising the country's financial regulations in late 2020.

Jack Ma has not been seen in China in over two years. He has not been charged with any crimes either.

Although his whereabouts still remain unclear, there have been reports of him being spotted in Japan, Thailand, and Australia in recent months.

These disappearances come amid China's anti-corruption probe targeted towards the country's $60 trillion financial sector (nearly £60,000 billion). The probe was launched by President Jinping.

The Chinese government insists that the actions taken against some of the country's wealthiest individuals are entirely legal and has pledged to eradicate corruption. However, Beijing's actions must be viewed in the context of decades of liberalisation in China, which is now the world's second largest economy.

This deregulation aided in the formation of many multi-billionaires with the potential to wield significant power. According to some observers, the Chinese Communist Party wants that power back under Jinping, and it is achieving it in mysterious ways.

Prior to that, Beijing's focus had been on traditional centres of power, like the military, heavy industry and local governments. Jinping has extended his focus while keeping a firm hold on key areas including the technology industry in order to further consolidate his power over the economy.