Ma's return to China supports softening tone toward private sector
Alibaba founder Jack Ma Yun has returned to China, ending a stay overseas of more than a year that the industry viewed as reflecting the somber mood of private businesses.
This eventually spurred new Premier Li Qiang to reach out to Ma.
Alibaba's shares saw an initial rise of up to 2.3 percent following news of Ma's return, but they eventually closed at HK$85.25, slightly lower than the previous trading day.
The return of China's best-known entrepreneur may help quell concerns of its private sector.
His reemergence in public offers support for the government's softening tone as leaders try to shore up an economy battered by three years of Covid curbs.
During a school visit, Ma - a former English teacher - discussed topics such as AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT and said he hoped to return to teaching one day, the Yungu School said on its WeChat account.
The school was founded by Ma and other Alibaba founders in his home city of Hangzhou in 2017.
Ma was also seen in a car in Hangzhou talking with Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang and senior vice president Shao Xiaofeng.
Ma returned to China last week, two sources said.
Before that Ma said he had retreated from his companies to focus on researching agriculture technology. And he told Ant and Alibaba executives not to obsess over his return to China, stressing that he is committed to their success even at a distance, people familiar with the situation said.
Earlier, another Chinese billionaire entrepreneur, Richard Liu Qiangdong, founder of JD.com, returned to China from the United States. Li has also voiced "unwavering support" for the private sector.
Premier Li, during the National People's Congress meetings, said: "There was an incorrect discourse that led to concerns among private entrepreneurs last year. [Regulators] shouldn't be only stepping on the brakes and not the gas."
Li had recognized Ma's return to the mainland could help boost business confidence among entrepreneurs and since late last year had reportedly begun asking Ma to return.
Some of these efforts involved asking people close to Ma, such as his business associates, to persuade the Alibaba founder in person while he was living in Japan.
Ma's return "boosts the sentiment of the broader platform and internet industry," said Zhang Zihua chief investment officer at Beijing Yunyi Asset Management.