China’s most famous entrepreneur has broken years of silence about Alibaba with a call to arms for employees, following years of brutal government punishment and strategic missteps that cost the e-commerce pioneer its place as leader of the country’s tech industry.

Jack Ma, the once-outspoken billionaire who stayed out of public view after clashing with Beijing, took to an internal message board to urge Alibaba to "correct its course” and lauded rival PDD, which has been swiping market share. He expressed confidence the 220,000-plus staff can return to their success of the past with determination and hard work.

"Every great company is born in a winter,” Ma wrote in response to a staff post. "The people willing to reform for the future, and the organizations willing to pay any price and sacrifice, are the ones that are truly respected.”