Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma Resurfaces After Vanishing From Limelight

Darnell Taylor
January 20, 2021

Ma's absence from public view in the past months, including missing the final episode of a TV show on which he was to appear as a judge, fuelled social media speculation over his whereabouts amid a Chinese regulatory clampdown on his sprawling business empire. The $35 billion initial public offering of Alibaba's affiliate payments firm - Ant Group Co. - was abruptly halted a year ago, helping send Alibaba's American depositary receipts down more than a fifth since late October.

That prompted speculation on the internet about whether Ma, China's biggest global business celebrity and a symbol of its tech boom, had been detained or might face legal trouble.

A recording of the call was first posted on a news portal backed by the government of Zhejiang, the eastern province where Alibaba is headquartered, and the video was verified by an Alibaba spokesperson.

The Jack Ma Foundation later confirmed the new and said that Ma attended the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative event on Wednesday.

The business tycoon, while addressing the participants of the event said: "We'll meet again when the [COVID-19] epidemic is over!"

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"Today, Alibaba and its archrival, Tencent, control more personal data and are more intimately involved in everyday life in China than Google, Facebook and other American tech titans are in the United States". He appealed to them to make it easier for entrepreneurs and young people to borrow.

Beijing has a history of disappearing, investigating and imprisoning financial tycoons who do not toe the party line.

Ant Group has, over these months, come under fire for its allegedly monopolistic overreach and fallen prey to the Chinese Communist Party politburo's intent to prevent a "disorderly expansion of capital" in the national economy. But finance experts said Xi's government was uneasy about Alibaba's dominance in retailing and Ant's potential financial risks. Days later, regulators suspended Ant's planned multibillion-dollar stock market debut.

According to CNN, Alibaba's Hong Kong-listed shares surged by more than 6 percent following the reports of his reappearance. "Alibaba still has a good governance structure - there are partners and a board of directors". He played a leading role in developing Ant, which grew out of Alibaba's online payment service, Alipay. "We made a firmer resolution to devote ourselves to education philanthropy", Ma said in the video.

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