At Alibaba’s 20th anniversary celebration in Hangzhou, China, founder Jack Ma stepped down as chairman. Ma delivered an emotional speech to a stadium packed with over 60,000 employees, tearing up multiple times as he bid farewell to the company he helped build from the ground up starting two decades ago.
CEO Daniel Zhang now has to fill Ma’s big shoes as chairman, but the transition was anything but sudden.
“The decision [to step down] is not something I came up with in a sudden impulse, nor was it because I was under any kind of pressure. There have been rumors online saying I was afraid of something. People at Alibaba are never afraid of anything. We only have respect for the future, but not fear,” Ma said in his speech.
“Today does not mark my retirement, but rather the beginning of the succession scheme at Alibaba. Today is not about a personal choice, but the success of the company’s system. The world today is experiencing lots of fundamental changes that have been affecting everyone. Challenges arise from globalization, anxieties caused by new technologies and trade tensions between China and the US, as well as the worsening natural environment, these are all delivering one signal: which is that a new era is coming soon. All the pains and confusion we have today, I reckon they are just temporary problems we have,” Ma added.
Ma also stressed the importance of kindness and that Alibaba’s success cannot be attributed to chance.
“There were lots of people saying I had really good luck, but actually the mistakes Alibaba made were no fewer than other firms. But we’ve also made many right decisions, mostly because we did not make them purely out of business considerations. All the critical decisions we made in the past 20 years were not about money,” explained Ma.
After a hectic life, one would think Ma would need a break, but he is not settling down yet.
“There are many more places that I’d like to visit, while I would like to do more in the fields of education, environmental protection and public welfare,” exclaimed Ma.
“After today, I will start a new chapter of my life. As a person that loves liveliness as much as me, I would not want to retire and leave the playground at such a young age. I just want to switch to another universe to have fun.”