For over six months, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and once-richest businessman in China, has been residing in central Tokyo as Beijing continues to crack down on the nation's technology industry and its most influential billionaires.
Since he criticized Chinese regulators two years ago, accusing them of having a "pawnshop mentality," and pushing for brave new players who could offer credit to the collateral poor, Ma has virtually vanished from the public eye.
According to those with direct knowledge of Ma's whereabouts, throughout the months that he spent in Japan with his family, Ma also made frequent trips to the U.S. and Israel in addition to staying at hot springs and ski resorts outside of Tokyo.
Since then, a number of regulatory challenges have been faced by both of the businesses he established, e-commerce giant Alibaba and Ant. Ant's $37 billion initial public offering was canceled by Chinese regulators, which also penalized Alibaba a record $2.8 billion for antitrust violations last year.
This year, President Xi Jinping's zero-COVID regulations have intensified, and his absence from China has corresponded with this development. In April and May, this resulted in a strict lockdown of Shanghai and the adjacent Yangtze river delta and has recently triggered widespread demonstrations. Ma resides in Hangzhou, a city close to Shanghai where Alibaba's corporate office is located.
Ma has been seen traveling to a number of nations after his dispute with Chinese officials, including Spain and the Netherlands. The millionaire has dodged difficult COVID-19 quarantines placed on everyone entering the country as well as challenging political challenges resulting from his prior effort to gain influence in the country's halls of power by spending less time in his house in China.
Based on those with intimate knowledge of Ma's locations, Ma has kept a low profile during his stay in Tokyo, traveling with his personal chef and security and limiting the amount of time he spends in public. His social life revolves around a select group of exclusive members' clubs, one of which is located in the posh Ginza neighborhood of Tokyo and another in the Marunouchi business district, which faces the Imperial Palace.
The private Ginza club has developed into a bustling yet discreet social hub for affluent Chinese who have either settled in Tokyo or are there for a lengthy period of time. People involved in the modern art scene in Japan claimed that Ma had transformed into a passionate collector.