Jack Ma has resurfaced following speculation over his whereabouts.
The co-founder and former CEO of Alibaba, whose tech empire has come under regulatory scrutiny in China, was rumored to be missing for weeks. However, in a video shared Wednesday by Chinese state media, he was seen speaking to a group of educators in rural schools in the country as part of a philanthropic event.
In the clip, which was published by Tianmu News, Ma said, in an English translation of his speech, “During this period of time, my colleagues and I have been studying and thinking, and we have become more determined to devote ourselves to education and public welfare. This is not only because I am a teacher myself, but more importantly, education — especially rural education — is of great importance.” Since establishing the Rural Teachers Initiative in 2015, Ma has hosted an annual ceremony to present awards to rural teachers and principals.
In a statement to FN, a Jack Ma Foundation spokesperson confirmed, “Jack Ma participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative event on Jan. 20.”
The address marks his first public appearance since Oct. 24, when Ma gave a speech at the Bund Summit in Shanghai. There, the billionaire entrepreneur appeared to call for a reform of China’s banking system and criticize Beijing financial officials for stifling innovation. “We can’t use yesterday’s methods to regulate the future,” he said on stage.
A week later, the highly anticipated stock market listing of Alibaba fintech affiliate Ant Group was blocked at the last minute by Chinese regulators. The Shanghai Stock Exchange noted that the $37 billion offering — widely considered at the time to be the world’s biggest IPO — did not meet listing qualifications or disclosure requirements as China looks to overhaul rules and regulations related to the fintech industry.
Currently, Ma ranks 25th in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with an estimated net worth of $52.9 billion. In October 2019, he stepped down from his role as Alibaba’s executive chairman — now held by CEO Daniel Zhang — in order to focus on his philanthropic efforts. Since February, the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have delivered millions of medical supplies including face masks and testing kits to more than 150 countries amid the global COVID-19 health crisis.
This story has been updated with a statement from the Jack Ma Foundation.