This is a golden era for rich nerds who make people uncomfortable. Remember Tesla CEO Elon Musk posing with maracas next to a mariachi band? Remember sentient ball of pizza dough Mark Zuckerberg doing his best normal guy impression? Okay, now forget those guys, because Jack Ma set the new high watermark for inscrutable technocrat behavior at this year’s Alibaba Annual Party in Hangzhou.
The founder of the Chinese e-commerce giant began his presentation with a graphic of meteors hurtling towards earth, one of which struck the Yellow Dragon Sports Center where the party was being held. Instead of causing mass death in a cloud of ash and fire, the meteor, I guess, was Jack Ma on a motorcycle. There were other asteroids. Were there many Jack Mas? Maybe those were real meteors and people are in danger? It was not addressed.
After appearing on the motorcycle, Ma revved it several times while wearing fancy dress that seemed to be stolen from either a Mardi Gras episode of Big Bad Beetleborgs or a My Chemical Romance pickup ice hockey game. He then did a short dance routine to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” It had none of the hallmarks of a Michael Jackson impression aside from the single glove thing. He didn’t moonwalk. At no point did Jack Ma appear to be having fun.
The dance lasted approximately 15 seconds, consisting of pointing, twirling, and entirely too many pelvic thrusts for a 53-year-old man who probably employs or does business with most of his audience. After several minutes of setup that involved a dozen or so backup dancers, Ma offered another 15 seconds of “Dangerous,” then some unchoreographed clapping through “Black and White” while Ma put a motorcycle helmet on. He rode his hog about 20 feet onto a platform that someone pulleyed, Ma and all, into the rafters. Maybe he turned back into a meteor. Maybe he just went back to being the second-richest man in China.
To be clear, I have no idea why any of this happened. I don’t know if Ma has expressed a deep love of Michael Jackson, motorcycles, meteors, or other words beginning with “m.” I don’t know if this constitutes a normal corporate party in Hangzhou. But I do know that Western technocrats have some catching up to do.