Jack Ma, founder of Ant Group, attends the inaugural meeting of Zhejiang E-Merchant Bank. Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, June 25, 2015.
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January 20, 2021 12:20 AM EST

Alibaba and Ant co-founder Jack 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.

China’s most recognizable entrepreneur addressed scores of teachers on an online conference Wednesday, part of an annual event the billionaire hosts to recognize the achievements of rural educators. His appearance, first reported in a local blog, was confirmed by people familiar with the matter.

Read more: Where Is Alibaba Founder Jack Ma? What the Saga of One of the World’s Richest Men Reveals About China Under Xi Jinping

Ma’s re-emergence may help quell persistent rumors about his fate while Beijing pursues investigations into online finance titan Ant Group and Alibaba Group Holding. The executive had kept out of public view since early November, when Chinese regulators torpedoed Ant’s $35 billion IPO, tightened fintech regulations, then ordered an overhaul of Ant and launched a separate antitrust probe into Alibaba — all in a span of days.

The assault on Ma’s trillion-dollar corporate empire encapsulates a broader campaign to rein in a generation of Chinese tech giants that Beijing now views as wielding too much control over the world’s No. 2 economy. The flurry of actions against his twin companies drove home how Beijing has lost patience with the outsize power of its technology moguls, perceived now as a threat to the political and financial stability President Xi Jinping prizes most.

 

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