Former Alibaba CEO, Jack Ma, has been spotted again in China

Alibaba's former CEO, Jack Ma, has been spotted in China after a three-year-long absence, according to state media sources.
Christopher McFadden
Jack Ma has reportedly been spotted in China.

World Economic Forum/Wikimedia Commons 

According to reports, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, has reappeared in public for the first time in three years. Since 2020, when he criticized China's financial regulators, the 58-year-old entrepreneur has kept a low profile. He was the most well-known Chinese billionaire to go missing during a crackdown on tech entrepreneurs. However, according to the South China Morning Post, Mr. Ma has been spotted at a school in Hangzhou after recently returning to China after more than a year overseas.

While the Alibaba-owned newspaper said that Mr. Ma has been traveling to different countries to learn about agricultural technology, it did not refer to why he had disappeared from public view in recent years. There had been rumors that he had been placed under house arrest or otherwise detained. The Financial Times newspaper reported in November 2021 that Mr. Ma had been living in Tokyo, Japan, for six months.

Mr. Ma was once the wealthiest person in China. In January 2021, he gave up control of the vast financial technology company, Ant Group. This made some people think he had gotten in trouble with the Chinese Communist Party for being too outspoken and assertive. In October 2020, Mr. Ma told a financial conference that traditional banks had a "pawn-shop mentality."

The following month, Ant's planned £26 billion stock market flotation, which would have been the world's largest, was canceled at the last minute by Chinese authorities, who cited "major issues" over regulating the firm.

Since then, there have been reported sightings of Mr. Ma in various countries, including Spain, the Netherlands, Thailand, and Australia. The re-emergence of the Alibaba founder has prompted renewed speculation over his future in China. Despite his absence from the public eye, Alibaba has continued to perform well, with the company reporting that its revenue rose by 2% to $35.92 billion in the January-March quarter of 2023. However, the Chinese government's crackdown on tech companies, including Alibaba, has led to increased scrutiny of the country's big tech firms.