Jack Ma, The Founder Of Alibaba, Returned To China After Months Away, A Sign That Beijing May Be Warming To Technology

After spending months overseas, Alibaba founder Jack Ma has been spotted in China, possibly indicating that Beijing is warming up to technology titans once more following an almost 18-month crackdown on the industry.

According to a WeChat post from the school, Ma visited Yungu school in Hangzhou, where Alibaba’s headquarters are, to speak with teachers about how to educate kids in the age of artificial intelligence.

According to the WeChat article, the billionaire claimed that while popular technologies like ChatGPT have presented hurdles for education, artificial intelligence may be leveraged to address these issues.

Ma is making his first public appearance in China since last year. For the past few months, Ma has traveled outside of China and has been seen in Spain, Japan, and Thailand.

Ma’s return follows a harsh crackdown on his empire that started in late 2020 when the billionaire’s financial technology company, Ant Group, was forced to postpone its significant offering in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Prior to the cancellation of the listing, Ma made remarks that appeared to be critical of China’s financial regulator.

China then strengthened rules for the domestic market. Ma founded Alibaba, which in 2021 received a $2.6 billion antitrust penalties.

While Ma has been gradually relinquishing control of the fintech company, Ant Group has been undergoing reforms to comply with regulations under the watchful eye of China’s central bank.

Investor worries that President Xi Jinping was turning against private enterprise and entrepreneurs were fueled by China’s tightening of regulations on the tech sector.

However, China’s now-abandoned zero-Covid policy has contributed to the country’s sluggish economic growth over the past year. China has been working to revive the economy in the interim. Beijing’s decision to welcome Ma back could be interpreted as an admission that it needs private companies to do this.

“Economic growth back on track is probably the greatest political priority the [Communist] Party faces at the moment, and a more optimistic entrepreneurial class is key to this,” Xin Sun, senior lecturer in Chinese and East Asian business at King’s College London, said through mail.

Sun claimed that he believes Ma and the government made “some sort of agreement” so that Ma could return and appear in public.

“In so doing, the government intends to signal its warmth towards private sector and investors—if even Jack Ma is perceived as having been pardoned, everyone else should feel safe and welcome,” Sun said.

There are also indications that China is easing some of the regulatory restrictions it has placed on the industry. For instance, regulators have been approving foreign games for release in China. Meanwhile, the Chinese ride-hailing company Didi, which was under regulatory scrutiny for cybersecurity and was compelled to delist from the New York Stock Exchange, indicated it was aiming to grow its operations.

(Adapted from LiveMint.com)

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Geopolitics, Regulations & Legal, Uncategorized

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