Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has accepted a teaching position in Japan, marking his comeback to public life after disappearing from the spotlight in 2020.
In his new position, Ma will undertake research on sustainable agriculture and food production, as well as teach seminars on entrepreneurship, corporate management, and innovation at Tokyo College, which is run by the University of Tokyo. Ma’s appointment as a visiting professor began on May 1, signifying his return to academia following his retirement from Alibaba in September 2019. Ma worked as an English instructor for several years before co-founding Alibaba.
Ma’s public appearance comes more than two years after he criticised China’s financial regulatory system in a speech that enraged Chinese officials. Days later, the $37 billion initial public offering of his fintech company, Ant Group, was cancelled, sparking a broader crackdown on Chinese digital firms.
Alibaba’s share price has dropped by more than 70% since its peak in 2020, and Ma’s fortune has dropped from $61 billion to an estimated $33 billion. Ma has been MIA since then, causing much suspicion regarding his location.
Ma was observed in Japan in November 2022, mostly at private members clubs. In January, he was spotted in Bangkok, Thailand, where he dined at a Michelin-starred street food restaurant and saw a Muay Thai fight, and in Hong Kong, where he was named an honorary professor at the University of Hong Kong. However, his whereabouts in recent times have remained unknown.
Some see Ma’s appointment at Tokyo College as a positive sign, implying that he is returning to the public eye and taking on a more public role. The University of Tokyo has also welcomed the decision, seeing Ma’s appointment as an opportunity to deepen its ties with China and the global business world. Ma’s appointment, according to the university, would lead to stronger collaboration between Japanese and Chinese enterprises in the domains of technology and sustainability.