Jack Ma makes rare public appearance in China

Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba and once one of China's most prominent entrepreneurs, has made a rare public appearance in the country, speaking at a conference for rural teachers.

Jack Ma makes rare public appearance in China

Hong Kong/Beijing CNN --

Jack Ma, the billionaire founder and former leader of China's entrepreneurs, made a rare public appearance here.

Ma visited Hangzhou, where he met with students and teachers from the Alibaba-funded Yungu School.

'Jack Ma visited Yungu School to discuss the future of education,' the school posted on Monday via WeChat, adding that Ma was visiting to discuss 'the opportunities and challenges' that 'new technological changes bring to education.

Ma, with a fortune worth nearly $33Billion, has kept a low profile since the Chinese government launched a severe crackdown on tech sector over two years ago.

The most dramatic opening salvo of the offensive was in November 2020 when Ant Group, a financial affiliate founded by Ma, had to cancel its $37 billion IPO. This intervention by regulators came after Ma's speech in which he criticised China's banks, and its financial regulators.

Ma is reported to have spent recent years in Japan, where he was reportedly accompanied by SoftBank CEO Masason, an investor in Alibaba, and in Hong Kong.

CNN was informed by the Jack Ma Foundation that Alibaba founder Alibaba 'travels a lot in China and abroad'.

Ma is a frequent traveler in China and abroad. Recently, he visited Hangzhou. A spokesperson for the school said that he visited Hangzhou Yungu School today to have a conversation with teachers about education.

Beijing has indicated that it may be ending its assault on the internet industry in recent months. After years of Covid lockdowns, a real estate crash and slow economic growth, the ruling Communist Party requires the private sector to help boost employment and growth.

Since taking office, Li Qiang, the new Premier of China has taken a more friendly tone toward businesses. This is what many believe to be an attempt to boost China's economic recovery. Investors are returning.

However, the sector's future outlook is uncertain. Last month, confidence was shaken when Bao Fan disappeared, the chairman and CEO of Beijing-based China Renaissance. The private equity and investment bank said that he was cooperating with Chinese authorities ten days later.

Bao is an experienced deal maker in Chinese tech. He helped broker the 2015 merger of two of China's most reputable food delivery services, Meituan (NIO) and Dianping (JD). His team also invested in Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers Nio (NIO), and Li Auto. They also helped Baidu (BIDU), and JD.com. (JD) to complete listing in Hong Kong.

While Beijing may be easing back on its pressure, it is still firmly gripping household names like Alibaba by quietly acquiring so-called "golden shares" that allow government officials direct involvement in their businesses. This includes the ability to have a say in what content they provide to hundreds and millions of people.

Ant Group's future is uncertain. Ma gave up control of the company as part of a restructuring of its shareholding structure. His voting rights have dropped to 6%, from more than half of them before the restructuring.

Ant stated in a statement that the move would make the company's shareholders structure transparent and more diverse, but it would not affect any shareholder's economic interests.

Ant stated that its major shareholders, Ma included, had agreed not to act in concert when exercising voting rights and would vote individually. Therefore, no shareholder would have any'sole or combined control' over Ant Group.