Speed Reads

The Daily Showdown

Jon Stewart helpfully explains China's Alibaba to America: 'Craigslist with better graphics'

Last week, the Chinese internet giant Alibaba took Wall Street by storm, making its wildly successful debut on the New York Stock Exchange. On Wednesday night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart tried to explain the company to the rest of America. It's not quite like Amazon, the most common comparison, because it doesn't sell stuff, it just connects buyers and sellers. "So it's Craigslist with better graphics, is that it?" he asked, switching to faux-announcer mode: "Do you like Amazon but are sick of its reliability?"

Well, Alibaba is also like PayPal, eBay, Netflix, and Groupon all tied up in one unfathomable company — and it's insanely profitable. But while its revenues are why investors snapped up shares, they aren't actually buying stock in Alibaba, just a Cayman Islands-based holding company, or "timeshare," as Stewart put it. And the company is listing in New York rather than Hong Kong "to escape the more stringent regulatory environment of China — China!" Stewart added, incredulously. But loopholes? Offshoring? Massively inflated internet startup IPO? "Do you understand what this means?" he yelled. "The communists just beat us at capitalism." Well, that or China is in for one hell of a bubble-burst. --Peter Weber