Everyone worried about Jack Ma can breathe (a little) easier. The Chinese billionaire hadn't been seen or heard from—not even via social media—since the end of October, when he gave a scathing speech against Chinese regulators that enraged President Xi Jinping. Now, however, an encouraging update: "Jack Ma is back," per Quartz, which notes that local media is reporting the 56-year-old Alibaba co-founder and former English teacher showed up online Wednesday for a rural-educators conference that he attends annually, this year held virtually due to the pandemic. Footage—seen here and shown via state media, per CNN Business—shows a relaxed-looking, Friday-casual-dressed Ma speaking from an undisclosed location.
"Recently, my colleagues and I have been studying and thinking," Ma said in the 50-second clip. "We have further made our determination to devote ourselves to education philanthropy." After Ma's remarks last fall slamming Chinese regulators for stifling innovation, the Chinese government put a halt to the $37 billion IPO of Ant Group, Alibaba's financial affiliate. Ma, who the New York Times notes is definitely not a "wallflower," disappeared shortly after that. Quartz notes that this appearance, in which he stresses his new focus on education, may be a way of showing the Chinese government, which has placed a priority on rural education, that he doesn't plan on causing any more trouble. It made investors happy, at any rate: Once Ma suddenly popped up on computer screens Wednesday, Alibaba's stock jumped 9% in trading, after months in which the firm's market cap lost billions of dollars. (Read more Jack Ma stories.)