Share this on Twitter Share this on Facebook Share this on LinkedIn Share this on Sina Weibo Share this on Wechat Share this on LinkedIn A visitor passes by a logo for the e-CNY, a digital version of the Chinese Yuan, displayed during a trade fair in Beijing, China, September 5, 2021. Credit: Ng Han Guan via AP In January 2004, Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, made one of the most consequential decisions in recent financial history. The English teacher-turned-entrepreneur was at the World Economic Forum in Davos when he decided to take on China’s backward financial system. Ma’s team back home in Hangzhou was nearly ready to launch Alipay, a payment system that would allow people to pay for what they ordered from Alibaba. Few Chinese at the time had credit cards, and a powerful state-owned company had a monopoly on most payments. So, Alibaba’s solution was to create its own payment system in order to fully achieve its e-commerce ambitions. The problem was that neither Ma nor Chinese officials were sure whether the system was legal. Jack Ma at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 23, 2015. Credit: WEF/Jolanda Flubacher via Flickr While hearing the world’s top CEOs speak about social responsibility, Ma made up his mind to take the risk. In the midSubscribe or login to read the rest. Subscribers get full access to: Exclusive longform investigative journalism, Q&As, news and analysis, and data on Chinese business elites and corporations. We publish China scoops you won't find anywhere else. A weekly curated reading list on China from David Barboza, Pulitzer Prize-winning former Shanghai correspondent for The New York Times. A daily roundup of China finance, business and economics headlines. We offer discounts for groups, institutions and students. Go to our Subscriptions page for details.