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"My biggest mistake was that I made Alibaba," Jack Ma once told investors. "I never thought this thing would change my life. I was just trying to run a small business."   © Getty Images
The Big Story

Jack Ma's China homecoming heralds new era for Alibaba

Company's 'soft breakup' aims to boost flagging growth and draw line under feud with Beijing

CISSY ZHOU, Nikkei staff writer | China

HONG KONG -- When billionaire Jack Ma flew to Hangzhou on the morning of March 27, few could have predicted the domino chain of events that would shortly unfold.

His arrival had ended a year of self-imposed exile outside of mainland China that had raised questions about whether, in fact, he could ever return. The co-founder of the $263 billion e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding had stopped appearing in public following a dramatic public confrontation with the Chinese government in 2020 over the public listing of fintech arm Ant Group. Since last May, he has only been spotted overseas: in Spain, the Netherlands, Japan, Thailand, Australia, Fiji and Hong Kong.

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