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Jack Ma Resurfaces After 3 Months of Radio Silence

He's alright.
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Jack Ma has resurfaced, according to a Reuters report. The Chinese tycoon made an appearance in a live video meeting on January 20, 2021, after almost three months of radio silence, with many speculating as to the cause of his sudden disappearance. 

Ma participated in a meeting with over 100 rural Chinese teachers, according to Reuters' source, Tianmu News, a state-backed news portal in China.

Tianmu News, which operates under Zhejiang Online, a government-backed provincial news source, was the first to report on Ma's reappearance, a fact that was confirmed by the Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Group.

There are no images from the event, but according to Tianmu News, Ma was dressed in a navy pullover in a room with gray marble walls and a striped carpet. He spoke for only 50 seconds, talking to the teachers receiving the Jack Ma Rural Teachers Award in the Chinese city Sanya, but did not discuss his own whereabouts. 

“We cannot meet in Sanya due to the epidemic,” said Ma. “When the epidemic is over, we must find time to make up for everyone’s trip to Sanya, and then we will meet again!”

Ma's Supposed Disappearance

Rumors began spreading about Ma's suspected disappearance after he failed to appear as a judge on his own show, Africa's Business Heroes. His photos were removed from the show's websites and his clips were cut from the show's promotional video.

This occurred in November, just a few weeks after he made public comments in October, criticizing the Chinese government's business practices, regulators, and banks, a move very unlike Ma, who has long been on good terms with the Chinese state.

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In the same month as his absence from his own show, Chinese authorities suspended the expected $37 billion IPO of Ma's new fintech focus Ant Group. A month later in December, Chinese authorities launched an investigation into Alibaba's anti-competition practices and demanded a "rectification" plan for Ant Group.

Ma, undoubtedly the most high profile Chinese businessman, was once the richest man in China. He's still among the top 25 richest people in the world, but has taken on a more public and philanthropic role in recent years, heading the Jack Ma Foundation, which donated equipment to Covid-hit countries in an effort to help China's public image.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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