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Jack Ma Awards Rural Teachers In Western China
Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group.
Wang HE—Getty Images

Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba Group, the company known as "the Amazon of China," just become the richest man in mainland China.

As of Tuesday, Ma had a net worth of $31.1 billion, compared with $30.9 billion for Wang Jianlin, a commercial property developer, according to Forbes. Ma Huateng, chairman of Internet service provider Tencent, is now third at $29.7 billion, according to the magazine.

Ma has seen the value of his holdings jump as Alibaba shares have climbed 28 percent since the end of December. Shares hit a new all-time high at the end of April. Alibaba went public in September of 2014, setting a record as the biggest IPO in history.

Ma and Wang have in fact rotated the No. 1 spot for wealthiest Chinese. Wang has made his wealth mainly from real estate and the entertainment industry.

Ma, 52, is now the 21st-wealthiest man in the world, according to Forbes, and is just $100 million behind Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer.

Fluent in English, Ma came from relatively humble origins before founding Alibaba in 1999 as the Internet was first starting to make major inroads in China. Today, in addition to its e-commerce unit, Alibaba owns majority stakes in The South China Morning Post; Youku Tudou, known as the "YouTube of China"; and a smartphone manufacturer.