Of all the tech companies to go public in the past five years, none has had as much potential as Alibaba.

Alibaba wasn't just the Amazon of China, as coverage in the Western media explained before its 2014 IPO, it was poised to be Amazon on steroids – not simply disrupting and displacing China's retail infrastructure, but more like building an entirely new retail infrastructure from scratch.

Like Amazon, though, Alibaba had a rocky start after it went public. The stock fell as low as $59 a share in 2015, below its $68 a share offering price. Investors balked at the company's cloudy disclosure practices , while a controversy involving counterfeit goods dogged its retail marketplace. Founder Jack Ma even publicly griped that his life was “much worse” after the IPO...