Alibaba Shuts Down Social Science Institute Jack Ma Envisioned for Centuries
Updated: Jan 8
In a surprising move, Alibaba Group Holding has decided to close its Luohan Academy, a social science institute that was founded by Jack Ma in June 2018 with the ambitious goal of existing for 300 years.
The closure of Luohan Academy, which aimed to tackle pressing economic and social challenges, is part of a larger restructuring effort at Alibaba.
Sources familiar with the matter revealed that Luohan Academy, despite its noble mission, operated more as an academic institute rather than a revenue-generating business entity. As part of the restructuring, certain operations of the academy will remain within Alibaba, including the environmental, social and governance research team.
Alibaba is dividing its sprawling business empire into six major groups, namely Taobao and Tmall, cloud, local services, international commerce, entertainment and Cainiao, along with several smaller business units. Cainiao, the smart logistics network, has even filed for an initial public offering in Hong Kong to raise at least US$1 billion.
Under the restructuring plan, Alibaba is redirecting resources and personnel to its frontline businesses. Eddie Wu Yongming, the new CEO of Alibaba, emphasised in a letter to employees last month that the company will prioritize "users first" and an "artificial intelligence-driven" approach to drive growth in the evolving internet landscape.
Luohan Academy, known for sponsoring research programs on topics such as privacy and data governance, the new economy and future finance, operated primarily as an academic institution rather than a profit-oriented entity. It published research reports on subjects like "Digital Circular Economy for Net Zero." The academy's annual digital economy conference in Hangzhou in June 2023 brought together scholars and economists from the US, Europe and China to discuss the evolving digital future.
Jack Ma, who stepped down as Alibaba's chairman in September 2019, initiated the establishment of Luohan Academy as part of the company's responsibility to address the societal impact of technology. Ma expressed his hope that the academy would continue its work for the next 300 years.
Alibaba has chosen not to comment on the closure of Luohan Academy, while the academy itself, based in Hangzhou, has not responded to requests for comment.
Alibaba has decided to close its Luohan Academy, a social science institute founded by Jack Ma, as part of a larger restructuring effort.
Luohan Academy operated as an academic institute rather than a revenue-generating business entity.
Certain operations of the academy will remain within Alibaba, including the environmental, social and governance research team.