The very secret new life of Jack Ma is revealed a little more today. Thanks to sources interviewed by the FinancialTimes, the daily life of the most watched and threatened Chinese billionaire and entrepreneur in the world is no longer of the same order as it was two years ago. The founder of Ant Group (finance) and Alibaba (e-commerce) has spent the past few months in Japan where his comings and goings are particularly limited to specific places and supervised by an on-guard security team. In the pages of the American financial daily, we learn that Jack Ma is following a kind of forced retirement but that he continues to keep an eye on the economy and business opportunities thanks to private clubs and trips to Europe.
The upheaval began two years ago when Jack Ma, then at the forefront of China’s economy, criticized the government and its policies. It was also the time when Ant Group, which was preparing to go public at a valuation of 37 billion dollars, was going to offer the Chinese a powerful banking solution, including loans for individuals, independent of the State, its safety and supervision. Everything was beyond comprehension for Beijing, which today strongly opposes this financial liberalization as well as the philosophy of growth open to the international market for Chinese companies. Jack Ma was therefore to become enemy number 1 and the government has maintained “extreme pressure” for the past twelve months as relayed by Bloomberg last August.
What is Jack Ma doing in his new life?
The regulatory barriers encountered by Jack Ma’s companies have largely dismantled the group and the unicorn Ant Group is today “only a shadow of itself” judged Bloomberg in an editorial. So what does the entrepreneur do with his new life? After his trips to the Netherlands and Austria to meet academics and talk about ecology, he spent his last months in the center of Tokyo and would seek to turn his professional activity and his investments towards sustainability projects here in Japan. What issues does he want to tackle? That’s the big question. But his visit to Austria was above all an opportunity for him to talk about the problems of food production, which could give an idea of his plans.
Far from tech and Beijing, Jack Ma has also traveled to the United States and Israel in recent months. His stays abroad are very discreet as no information escapes. The sources interviewed by the FinancialTimes rather evoked his frequentation in private clubs in the Japanese capital, one of which notably includes a small group of Chinese expatriates. Very exclusive, it is located in the chic district of Ginza. One of the others where Jack Ma used to go faces the Imperial Palace, in the financial district of Marunouchi.
For the rest of his time, watercolors and art collections replaced meetings at the Chinese tech summit. Jack Ma would have discovered a new passion in painting. His daily life in Japan would also revolve around his family. All deserted the house in Hangzhou, near Shanghai, where the entrepreneur lived to quickly go to the head office of Alibaba. His last appearance on the spot does not date back so long, however. In May 2022, a photo showed the businessman accompanied by about twenty Alibaba employees in a meeting on the company’s campus. On site again, the man would have talked about philanthropy and sustainable agriculture.