Who is Jack Ma, China's nonconformist entrepreneur?

·2-min read
Jack Ma embodies the success of the Alibaba e-commerce platform.

The symbol of a strong, dynamic China, Alibaba.com founder, Jack Ma has disappeared from public view for almost three months. One of Forbes' top 20 richest people on Earth, Jack Ma for a long time symbolized the ultimate Chinese success story before, little by little, incurring the wrath of the country's ruling Communist Party.

Fifty-six-year-old Jack Ma is without a doubt the world's best-known Chinese entrepreneur. The former English teacher notably founded the Alibaba.com e-commerce website, which launched in 1999. This quickly became China's answer to Amazon -- an immense online retail platform, which alone represents almost 80% of the country's e-commerce.

Drawing heavily on the codes of Silicon Valley, Jack Ma launched into the new technological El Dorado that was the internet in the mid-1990s. In 1995, he was already behind one of China's first internet companies, China Pages.

As well as Alibaba, Jack Ma currently helms Ant Group, a powerful online bank, and Aliexpress.com, an international e-commerce site promising discount prices. He has purchased the South China Morning Post newspaper and has a stake in the multimedia group, Huayi Brothers (movies, TV, music). He also owns a vineyard in Bordeaux, France, and the eccentric fan of kung fu and pop music is a frequent guest on TV shows. France even named him a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in 2016.

In 2019, Jack Ma stepped down as chairman of Alibaba to focus on using his wealth to help others through several philanthropy projects, particularly in education. His most recent public appearance dates back to October 24, 2020, when he gave a speech criticizing the government attitude towards Chinese fintech businesses. Since then, Jack Ma has not been seen in public, and his "disappearance" has prompted much speculation ... and concern.