First video of Jack Ma addressing teachers after months of disappearance

Daniel Fowler
January 20, 2021

The most notable move by Chinese authorities was the pullout of fintech firm Ant's $35 billion IPO and its founder Jack Ma has since disappeared from the public spotlight.

But a video clip of Ma giving a congratulatory speech to rural teachers as part of an annual awards ceremony organised by his charity was published on social media by Chinese financial news outlets Wednesday morning. Ma has resurfaced after months out of public view, quashing intense speculation about the plight of the billionaire grappling with escalating scrutiny over his internet empire.

Jack Ma had not appeared in public since October 24, where he blasted China's regulatory system in a speech at a Shanghai forum that set him on a collision course with officials, leading to the suspension of a $37-billion IPO of Alibaba's financial affiliate Ant Group.

Tianmu News first reported that Ma had met with the teachers via a live video conference on Wednesday during an annual event he hosts to recognize the rural educators.

The business tycoon, while addressing the participants of the event said: "We'll meet again when the [COVID-19] epidemic is over!" In the video, Ma is said to have pledged his commitment to working with his colleagues to improve education and public welfare. Ma's public appearance comes as Alibaba plans to raise at least $5 billion through the sale of a USA dollar-denominated bond this month.

In the speech, Ma praised China's poverty alleviation efforts, a central target of the Communist leadership, and vowed to dedicate more efforts towards helping rural teachers.

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Anti-monopoly regulators warned executives of Alibaba and five other tech giants in December not to use their dominance to block new competitors from entering their markets.

Both Alibaba and Ant said they will cooperate with regulatory requests.

In a new video clip published online on January 20, Ma was reportedly shown visiting a school rebuilt by his foundation - a glimpse that was enough to spur Alibaba's Hong Kong-traded shares to rise by nearly 9%.

That clashed with the ruling party's marathon campaign to reduce surging debt in China's financial system that prompted fears about a possible bank crisis and led rating agencies to cut Beijing's credit rating for government borrowing.

Last year, outspoken real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang was jailed for 18 years on alleged corruption charges, months after penning an essay critical of the Communist Party.

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