Ma disappeared for a while, and his company seems to have been punished by Beijing for some time now and analysts have been scratching their head for a reason.
Reuters is convinced that the reason is to do with Ma’s meeting with Trump in 2017 when he travelled to New York to meet President-elect Donald Trump for one on one talks in Trump Tower days before inauguration and promised to create a million American jobs.
Beijing was apparently furious and Alibaba's government relations team was subsequently told by Chinese officials that Beijing was unhappy about Ma meeting Trump without its prior approval.
China had a reason it did not want Ma talking to Trump. There were tensions between the two countries after Trump slammed China during his election campaign, blaming it for the loss of American jobs.
Clark, chairman of Beijing-based investment advisory firm BDA China and author of a book on Alibaba and Ma said: “Jack appeared too provocative, out of step with the new approach to governance espoused by Xi, he was a natural first target to signal that a major change had begun.
"Jack was rubbing shoulders regularly with foreign presidents, prime ministers, royalty, celebrities at places like Davos or on his own visits overseas. There was a constant stream of VIP visitors to see him in Hangzhou too."
Authorities cracked down on Ma's business empire after he gave a speech in Shanghai in October last year accusing financial watchdogs of stifling innovation. Regulators suspended the $37 billion listing of his fintech firm Ant Group two days before the planned debut on 5 November and ordered that Ant be restructured and launched antitrust investigations into Ma's businesses, eventually leading to a record $2.75 billion fine for Alibaba in April.
It seems that Ma’s time of exile is coming to a close. Ma is taking his first tentative steps back on to the global stage with a low-key trip to Europe where he's cultivating hobbies like horticulture.
The billionaire apparently wrote directly to Xi earlier this year offering to devote the rest of his life to China's rural education, according to a government source who said the president spoke about the letter at a meeting of the country's senior leaders in May.
Last week the paper published pictures of Ma wearing a white protective gown and holding flowerpots. It said he would continue touring European companies and research institutions involved in agricultural infrastructure and plant breeding, citing people familiar with his plans.
Tsai, the co-founder of Alibaba, played down his long-time associate's influence in a rare interview about the elusive billionaire with CNBC's Squawk Box show in June. "He's lying low right now. I talk to him every day", Tsai said. "The idea that Jack has this enormous amount of power, I think that's not quite right. He is just like you and me, he's a normal individual."