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Jack Ma is back, and he has some feelpinions to share

Offering wisdom on AI signals the Alibaba boss is in Beijing's good books again

Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has appeared in his homeland after over a year away, visiting a school and sharing commentary on the state of AI.

Ma's appearance at the Yungu school in Hangzhou was documented on Chinese social media.

According to the school's Weixin page, Ma dispensed opinions on ChatGPT – suggesting that such technologies have brought challenges to education, but only represent the early stages of what AI can do.

Yungu school summarized Ma's message: "We need to use artificial intelligence to solve problems instead of being controlled by artificial intelligence. Although human physical and mental strength are inferior to machines, machines only have a 'core,' while humans have a 'heart'."

A video attached to the school's Weibo post showed Ma, a former English teacher, touring the school and sharing beverages with staff at an outdoor table overlooking a running track.

The entrepreneur, who is regarded with celebrity status in China, has laid low during China's multi-year regulatory crackdown on the tech industry that saw his company's browser yanked from app stores, the company itself issued fines, and the IPO of its offshoot Ant Group squashed right before it would have become the world's largest float.

While Beijing's scrutiny has been directed at all corners of China's tech industry, Ma drew particular attention to himself when he made statements critical of the Chinese Communist Party. He then promptly and mysteriously vanished from the public eye.

Chinese officials declared the country-wide tech crackdown as over in January, while very obviously still enforcing regulations and remaining clear about official objectives and ideals for the nation's tech sector.

Appearing at an educational facility and sharing some uncontroversial opinions on AI is a good way for Ma to test the waters while supporting China's ongoing efforts to appear more open to business and global collaboration.

Ma's high-profile visit also comes as the Chinese economy is recovering quickly from extensive COVID-19 lockdowns, and as Chinese authorities have pledged unwavering support to boost the private and internet economy. Observers said that the move of a prominent business tycoon also carries weight in shoring up confidence in the recovery of Chinese economy," reported Chinese state media Global Times.

"Jack Ma is back! The spring of the private economy is back," stated one Chinese financial blogger on social media.

Ma joins a swath of global businessmen returning to China after lengthy hiatus. Last weekend the government hosted its annual China Development Forum for the first time since COVID.

Among the attendees were Apple's Tim Cook, Qualcomm's Cristiano Amon, and Samsung's Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong, who all met with government officials at some point during their visit while most spoke enthusiastically about business in the Middle Kingdom. ®

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