JACK MA’S REAPPEARANCE speech was as humble and dutiful as his previous one, last October, was caustic and critical.
After a nearly three-month absence from public view that sparked rumours that the high-profile billionaire founder of Alibaba and its fintech spin-off Ant Group had been detained by authorities displeased by his dismissive criticisms of China’s financial regulators, Ma joined a meeting of 100 rural teachers by video link. (The screenshot above is from a clip posted to social media.)
His presentation touched on two issues dear to the heart of Party leadership: that the country had eradicated poverty; and that entrepreneurs had a duty to serve society, in this case by supporting teachers and improving rural education.
It was unclear where Ma was speaking from, nor did he mention where he had been of late.
Between Ma’s two public appearances, regulators had forced the last-minute pulling of Ant Financial’s initial public offering and started an antitrust investigation into Alibaba as part of a broader reining-in of the private tech companies.
Ma, too, will find himself on a tighter leash and make sure not to strain against it. The same will be true for his companies, as this Bystander suggested previously.
However, his reappearance alone will be of some reassurance to investors. Nonetheless, that does not give China’s tech giants and their leaders any latitude to step out of line.