The charismatic entrepreneur has been keeping a low profile for two and a half years after public criticism of the Chinese regulator, which had earned his group to be in the sights of power.

The authorities had put a stop to a gigantic IPO in Hong Kong of Ant Group, the payment subsidiary of his group, while the parent company Alibaba was subsequently fined 2.3 billion euros for abuse of dominant position.

Previously very present in the media, Jack Ma, aged 58, had hardly been seen in public since.

After several months abroad, the former English teacher visited a school founded by Alibaba partners near Shanghai on Monday, according to a social media post by the school.

Ma met with staff and toured classrooms before speaking about artificial intelligence (AI), the text said, which is accompanied by photos, widely reported by local media.

"ChatGPT-like technologies are already challenging education, but ChatGPT is just the beginning of the AI era," he said. Ma, in reference to the American conversational robot.

"We should be using AI to solve problems and not be controlled by AI," Ma said, noting that unlike machines, humans have a "heart."

Jack Ma, who left the leadership of his group in 2019 to devote himself entirely to philanthropic activities, relinquished control of Ant Group in January.

He is one of China's most famous businessmen. His atypical personal background and showmanship have made his success an example for a whole generation of entrepreneurs in his country.

Since his media withdrawal in 2020, every information about the billionaire and his travels is highly commented in China on social networks.

© 2023 AFP