Alibaba founder Jack Ma has made his first public appearance since the Chinese government’s crackdown on the company started almost three months ago. In a live-streamed video, he spoke to rural teachers during an event he hosts annually. Another video of the event showed him touring a primary school in Hangzhou, his hometown.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma makes public appearance
Jack Ma has stayed out of sight since Beijing started cracking down on Alibaba and Ant Group. He hasn't been seen in public since Chinese regulators halted Ant Group's initial public offering late last year.
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In the video, Ma told rural teachers that he would spend more time on philanthropy. According to Bloomberg, Ant Group confirmed the video's authenticity, posting it on a blog. However, the company declined to make any additional comment on it.
Alibaba stock surged after Jack Ma's appearance, as some were speculating that he had met with some untimely fate due to his criticism of the Chinese government. Beijing ordered Ant to overhaul its business and started probing Alibaba on antitrust issues.
The crackdowns came after Ma's speech in October, in which he rebuked what he referred to as "pawn shop" Chinese lenders, regulators who don't understand the internet, and the global banking community's "old men."
A change in tone for Ma
Bloomberg reports that Ma's speech today had a much different tone, falling along the lines of themes commonly spoken of by the Communist party. The Alibaba founder was once an English schoolteacher. He talked about why it's important to revive the Chinese countryside and narrow income disparities by encouraging younger talent to return to rural areas.
It's still unclear where Jack Ma was or why he hasn't appeared in public since the crackdowns on Alibaba and Ant Group. However, his public reemergence should quiet some of the more disturbing rumors about what happened to him. News coverage in China tends to be carefully planned and controlled. One of the first news outlets to report on his video speech to rural teachers was an online media outlet backed by the government of Zhejiang province.
A source reportedly told CNBC that Ma didn't disappear, but rather, was merely laying low.