Chinese billionaire Jack Ma has made his first public appearance since openly criticizing China’s financial regulatory system just over two months ago.
Ma appeared in a 50-second video Wednesday published on Chinese financial news outlets congratulating rural teachers who have been supported by his charitable foundation, vowing that he and his colleagues would devote themselves to educational philanthropy.
The 56-year-old billionaire founder of Alibaba, the world’s largest online retail company, had been out of public view since making a speech at a business conference last October in Shanghai, accusing regulators of stifling innovation and blocking opportunities.
Several weeks later, the government suspended the debut of the Ant Group, a spinoff of Alibaba, as a publicly traded company on Hong Kong and Shanghai exchanges, a move that cost the company $37 billion, which would have set the record profit for an initial public offering
The People’s Bank of China later ordered Ant to return to its “payment origins,” enhance transparency around transactions and prohibit unfair competition. Ant began as a payments service for Alibaba, the world’s biggest online retail company, and evolved over time as one of the world’s biggest online financial services companies, offering such services as loans, investing and insurance.
The Bank’s decision on Ant coincided with the Chinese government’s market regulation agency decision to open an anti-monopoly investigation into Alibaba. The probe is looking into the company’s practice of forcing its business partners to choose either Alibaba or a rival competitor, instead of allowing them to sell their merchandise through both outlets.
Alibaba was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma, who has become the richest businessman in China with an estimated net worth of $59 billion.