Alibaba founder Jack Ma has returned to mainland China in a rare public visit that comes as Beijing tries to restore confidence in the entrepreneurial class after a years-long crackdown on the tech sector.
Ma traveled to his hometown of Hangzhou, where Ali Baba at its headquarters, to visit the Alibaba-funded Yungu School, according to the school, which primarily educates the children of Alibaba employees.
In a post on its WeChat account on Monday, the school cited Mom talk about the challenges that artificial intelligence poses to education. The former English teacher and education philanthropist discussed the need for education reform if children were to compete with artificial intelligence in the future.
Beijing hopes publicity around Ma’s rare trip to mainland China can reinvigorate business confidence after the end of a deadly regulatory crackdown and zero-Covid restrictions.
“For business, the key will be whether Ma gets the sound removed. Being physically in China is one thing, but will we hear from him again, and will he be able to talk about anything other than rural education and agriculture? said Duncan Clark, founder of Beijing-based consultancy BDA and author of Alibaba: The house that Jack Ma built.
THE detention of Chinese Renaissance founder Bao Fan has thrown the business world into jitters in recent weeks just as Beijing is trying to promote investment in the country.
Billionaire Ma was once a high-profile personality in China, giving freewheeling interviews to the media and taking to the stage in flamboyant dress and performing rock music at corporate galas.
Just days before fintech group Ant Financial’s blockbuster $37 billion IPO in November 2020, Ma gave a speech in which he attacked China’s financial watchdogs and banks. The speech led President Xi Jinping to force Ant’s delisting and sparked a crackdown on the country’s biggest tech groups.
Since then, Ma has avoided media attention and has increasingly spent her time outside of China.
The Financial Times reported that Ma lived in Tokyo for nearly six months in November, making regular trips to the United States and Israel. Ma has also been spending time in Hong Kong in recent months, playing golf, according to people familiar with his activities.
Government officials in Zhejiang province, home to Hangzhou, have stepped up their charm offensive with Alibaba, sending senior local Communist Party officials to the company’s headquarters and signing a strategic cooperation agreement.
Ma’s return to mainland China comes as Ant Financial’s future remains uncertain. The Billionaire relinquished control of the Ant Group in January, significantly reducing its stake in the company. A change in control could pave the way for a listing in Hong Kong or Shanghai.
Additional reporting by Qianer Liu in Hong Kong