According to the Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post (SCMP), Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma has been touring Dutch research institutions to further his interests in farm technologies.
Since publicly criticising China’s regulatory structure in a speech last year, the Chinese billionaire has largely remained out of the public eye. His business was quickly scrutinised by regulators, and his fintech subsidiary Ant Group’s $37 billion mega IPO was put on hold.
Ma, once China’s most well-known and vocal businessman, returned to Hong Kong in October, when he dined with at least “a handful” business associates, according to two people.
He then went to Mallorca, Spain, where his luxury yacht is moored, his first vacation overseas since a spat with Chinese officials, according to two Spanish publications last week.
Three images of Ma, sourced as handouts and dated Oct. 25, were released by SCMP, which is owned by Alibaba.
He was wearing a white safety robe and carrying flowerpots in two of them, while he was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt in the third and the caption indicated he was analysing technology from BOAL Systems, an aluminium extrusion specialist.
According to those acquainted with his plans, the billionaire, who retired as Alibaba’s chairman in 2019, would continue touring European enterprises and research organisations involved in agricultural infrastructure and plant breeding.
According to the sources who spoke to SCMP, Ma believed that merging the technologies he investigated with Alibaba’s cloud computing, big data analysis, and artificial intelligence may help modernise Chinese agriculture.
Photos of Ma touring greenhouses in eastern Zhejiang province, where both Alibaba and Ant are based, went viral on Chinese social media on September 1.
The next day, Alibaba said it would invest 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) by 2025 in support of “common prosperity”, becoming the latest corporate giant to pledge support for the wealth sharing initiative driven by President Xi Jinping.