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Missing Alibaba founder Jack Ma makes first public appearance since China crackdown

China's most recognizable entrepreneur addressed scores of teachers on an online conference Wednesday, part of an annual event the billionaire hosts to recognize the achievements of rural educators.  
 

Missing Alibaba founder Jack Ma makes first public appearance since China crackdown-dnm
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Shanghai, First Published Jan 20, 2021, 11:38 AM IST
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Shanghai: Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma has appeared in public months after mystery shrouded his sudden disappearance from the public eye following a speech in October.

China's most recognizable entrepreneur addressed scores of teachers on an online conference Wednesday, part of an annual event the billionaire hosts to recognize the achievements of rural educators. His appearance, first reported in a local blog, was confirmed by people familiar with the matter.

Social media speculation over the whereabouts of China's highest-profile entrepreneur swirled this month after news reports that he missed the final episode of a TV show featuring him as a judge, amid a regulatory clampdown by Beijing on his sprawling business empire.

Ma had not appeared in public since a late-October forum in Shanghai, where he blasted China's regulatory system in a speech that set him on a collision course with officials, leading to suspension of a $37-billion IPO of Alibaba's financial affiliate Ant Group.

Much has been written about the controversial October 24 speech at the 2nd Bund Summit in Shanghai. In the following days, Ant Group’s listing plan (the largest IPO in history) was suspended, Alibaba was investigated for suspected monopoly practices, the company’s stock price fell, Jack Ma’s own net worth too begun to fluctuate and he never showed up in public after that.

The assault on Ma's trillion-dollar corporate empire encapsulates a broader campaign to rein in a generation of Chinese tech giants that Beijing now views as wielding too much control over the world's No. 2 economy. The flurry of actions against his twin companies drove home how Beijing has lost patience with the outsize power of its technology moguls, perceived now as a threat to the political and financial stability President Xi Jinping prizes most.

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