Alibaba founder Jack Ma has returned to China, ending a stay overseas of more than a year.
Ma’s re-emergence in public offers support for the government’s softening tone toward the private sector as leaders try to shore up an economy battered by three years of Covid-19 curbs.
During his visit, Ma discussed topics such as artificial intelligence-powered chatbot ChatGPT and also said he hoped to return to teaching one day, the Yungu School said on its official WeChat account.
The school was founded by Ma and other Alibaba founders in the e-commerce giant’s eastern home city of Hangzhou in 2017.
China’s new premier, Li Qiang, a close ally of President Xi Jinping, had recognised his return to the mainland could help boost business confidence among entrepreneurs and since late last year had begun asking Ma to return.
Meanwhile, Chinese commerce minister Wang Wentao met Apple CEO Tim Cook on Monday and exchanged views on the company’s development in China, the commerce ministry said.
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The two talked about stabilising industrial and supply chains, the ministry said, adding that Wang told Cook China is willing to provide a good environment and services for foreign companies including Apple.
The minister also had meetings with the several other international firms over the past few days, including Pfizer, BMW, and Qualcomm.
Additionally, Saudi Aramco raised its multi-billion dollar investment in China by finalising and upgrading a planned joint venture in northeast China and acquiring an expanded stake in a privately controlled petrochemical group. Aramco said on Monday it had agreed to acquire a 10 per cent stake in privately controlled Rongsheng Petrochemical for about $3.6 billion.
The Rongsheng deal comes on the heels of Aramco’s agreement worth $10 billion with Chinese partners for an oil refinery and petrochemical project in the Chinese province of Liaoning that is expected to start in 2026.
Furthermore, Chinese search engine giant Baidu cancelled a planned livestreamed product launch related to its ChatGPT-like ‘Ernie bot’ that it had advertised as being open to media and the public.
The reason behind the change in format was in order to satisfy the “strong demand” from 120,000 firms that had applied to test Ernie bot.