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It's Very Hard To Imagine Jack Ma Slowing Down Anytime Soon

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Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma. (Photo by Vichan Poti/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

I’ve been reporting about Chinese billionaire Internet icon Jack Ma and Alibaba for about a decade and a half, and watched with astonishment how this elfish, energetic ex-English teacher has managed year-after-year to attract talent and expand the team that has built up one of the world’s most powerful businesses. Controversy has never been far, but new customers and success haven’t, either. Scrappy ambition is omnipresent, and in that sense, Alibaba embodies much of the character of China that the world has come to know today.

Ma has a fair for the dramatic, and today’s news well-advertised announcement from Ma doesn’t disappoint. He will step down from Alibaba in a year as chairman. (Click here for Ma’s full letter.)  CEO Daniel Zhang, who has run Alibaba’s ever-expanding empire day-to-today as CEO since 2013, will succeed him. Ma will serve on the board through 2020.

Ma, whose investments extend beyond Alibaba, himself is a bit contradictory about his future in his letter. On one hand, Ma said: "Because of physical limits on one’s ability and energy, no one can shoulder the responsibilities of chairman and CEO forever." On the other hand, he wrote: "I still have lots of dreams to pursue. Those who know me know that I do not like to sit idle." Ma also added: "The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things – because what if new dreams can be realized?!"

It’s very hard indeed to imagine Ma slowing down much in life at this point or losing any influence on the major decisions at Alibaba anytime in the foreseeable future. Like Alibaba’s itself, Ma’s future will be interesting to watch.

(Click here for a related post on Saturday)

–Follow me on Twitter @rflannerychina

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Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma. (Photo by Vichan Poti/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

I’ve been reporting about Chinese billionaire Internet icon Jack Ma and Alibaba for about a decade and a half, and watched with astonishment how this elfish, energetic ex-English teacher has managed year-after-year to attract talent and expand the team that has built up one of the world’s most powerful businesses. Controversy has never been far, but new customers and success haven’t, either. Scrappy ambition is omnipresent, and in that sense, Alibaba embodies much of the character of China that the world has come to know today.

Ma has a fair for the dramatic, and today’s news well-advertised announcement from Ma doesn’t disappoint. He will step down from Alibaba in a year as chairman. (Click here for Ma’s full letter.)  CEO Daniel Zhang, who has run Alibaba’s ever-expanding empire day-to-today as CEO since 2013, will succeed him. Ma will serve on the board through 2020.

Ma, whose investments extend beyond Alibaba, himself is a bit contradictory about his future in his letter. On one hand, Ma said: “Because of physical limits on one’s ability and energy, no one can shoulder the responsibilities of chairman and CEO forever.” On the other hand, he wrote: “I still have lots of dreams to pursue. Those who know me know that I do not like to sit idle.” Ma also added: “The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things – because what if new dreams can be realized?!”

It’s very hard indeed to imagine Ma slowing down much in life at this point or losing any influence on the major decisions at Alibaba anytime in the foreseeable future. Like Alibaba’s itself, Ma’s future will be interesting to watch.

(Click here for a related post on Saturday)

–Follow me on Twitter @rflannerychina

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