After two decades of building Alibaba into a $ 460 billion business, Ma is now turning full time to philanthropy. He started the Jack Ma Foundation in 2014, and has cited the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as an inspiration for his charitable endeavors.
"Jack has long signaled his interests in philanthropy, the environment, women's empowerment, education and development," said Duncan Clark, author of "Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Build."
But he is also a former English teacher, and has often talked about his passion for education. The date Ma chose to formally retire, September 10, is Teachers' Day in China, "so there are some messages in it," Clark said. It's also Mom's 55th birthday.  Ma referred to her previous career is to explain why he withdrew from his company.
"Teachers always want their students to transcend them, so the responsible thing … for me and the company to do is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership roles," Ma said in September last year.
The current knowledge-based approach to teaching will "fail our children" who will never be able to compete with machines, Ma said. Children should be taught "soft skills" such as independent thinking, values and teamwork, he added.
In 2017, Mom's foundation pledged $ 45 million over 10 years to help discover and cultivate future teacher talent in rural China.
Ma has also taken her teaching beyond China to other emerging markets, according to Clark.
Ma and Alibaba have hosted a bi-annual women's and entrepreneurship conference in China since 2015 The events have drawn names such as Arianna Huffington and Vera Wang. This year's conference included a video message from Rihanna.
Ma said that equality is one of the most important issues in The 21st century, noting that "if you want your business to succeed, it's important to appoint enough female leaders."
Leaving & # 39; on a high & # 39;
The disclosure came amid growing concern for the tighter grip waged by China's private sector by the Communist Party under President Xi Jinping.
Ma resigns from Alibaba at a relatively young age. He has previously said he wants to retire earlier than Bill Gates, who resigned as Microsoft's chairman at age 58 in 2014.
"I got rumors from outside China and said, & # 39; That's because the government wants to push you down. & # 39; No one can [push you out] "If you don't want to leave, right? Because I know there's nothing about politics or government," Ma said.
Still, some observers say Ma had flown a little too close to the sun, and leaving Alibaba is partly about self-preservation. The charitable projects Ma has signaled that he is interested in investing in retirement have the added benefit of being unlikely to cause waves with China's leadership.
The last chapter of Clark's book about Ma was titled "Icon or Icarus."
"He is committed to securing his legacy. He is not leaving the company fully. But this move is a smart way to leave the hill," Clark said.
"To avoid being Icarus, you must … not only avoid flying too close to the sun, but also avoid crashing in the waves. So you still have to be ambitious. In philanthropy, education, environment he has plenty of room to hover yet. Areas where the government will be tolerant if not encouraging, "Clark said.