From Alibaba to Academia: Jack Ma’s New Role at Tokyo College

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, has been appointed a visiting professor at Tokyo College in Japan, marking a rare public statement of his commitments outside of China. Ma will conduct research on sustainable agriculture and food production and deliver seminars on entrepreneurship.

The move is part of Ma’s re-emergence into the public eye after mainly disappearing from view during Beijing’s crackdown on tech, culminating in the cancellation of a $37bn initial public offering by Ant Group, Alibaba’s fintech affiliate. Ma retreated from the spotlight after his criticism of Chinese regulators in late 2020, but returned to mainland China in March to support plans to restructure Alibaba into six separate units.

Ma’s new role in Japan combines his interest in education and familiarity with the country, where he spent much of last year during the Covid-19 pandemic. His return to China in March was seen as a symbol of entrepreneurial confidence in the country, even though he is no longer involved in the day-to-day running of Alibaba. Since handing over the company’s reins to CEO Daniel Zhang, Ma has focused on educational activities and philanthropy. He was recently appointed as an honorary professor at the University of Hong Kong to research finance and agriculture.

Ma’s appointment as a visiting professor at Tokyo College is a significant development for the billionaire entrepreneur, who was once China’s best-known business leader. Ma has always enjoyed visiting Japan and greatly respects its culture, food, and people, according to Brian A. Wong, a former Alibaba executive and author of The Tao of Alibaba. Ma’s new role is also a reminder of the success of SoftBank, which made one of the most successful technology investments ever in Alibaba.

Overall, Ma’s new role at Tokyo College is a sign that he is once again becoming active in the public eye, despite the challenges he has faced in recent months. It also shows that he remains committed to education and entrepreneurship and is willing to share his expertise with others. Ma’s views and opinions still carry weight and influence behind the scenes, according to Wong, and his return to the public eye is likely to be closely watched by investors and entrepreneurs alike.