SHANGHAI, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 17: Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma speaks during the opening ceremony of the 2018 World Artificial Intelligence Conference at West Bund on September 17, 2018 in Shanghai, China. The 2018 World Artificial Intelligence Conference is held on September 17-19 in Shanghai. (Photo by Zhao Yun/VCG via Getty Images)
Zhao Yun/VCG via Getty Images
SHANGHAI, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 17: Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma speaks during the opening ceremony of the 2018 World Artificial Intelligence Conference at West Bund on September 17, 2018 in Shanghai, China. The 2018 World Artificial Intelligence Conference is held on September 17-19 in Shanghai. (Photo by Zhao Yun/VCG via Getty Images)
Now playing
03:02
How Jack Ma changed China
New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. headquarters in Beijing, China, on May 31, 2019. Shares of New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. (New Oriental), a leading provider of private educational services in China, soared on Tuesday after the company reported quarterly revenue and next-quarter guidance that topped analysts' expectations.  Imaginechina/AP
Imaginechina/AP
New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. headquarters in Beijing, China, on May 31, 2019. Shares of New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. (New Oriental), a leading provider of private educational services in China, soared on Tuesday after the company reported quarterly revenue and next-quarter guidance that topped analysts' expectations. Imaginechina/AP
Now playing
01:49
Beijing's regulatory crackdown hit stocks in China and the US
split China tech company listing
New York Stock Exchange
split China tech company listing
Now playing
03:28
What does the future hold for Chinese companies listed in the US?
screengrab china shipping
CCTV
screengrab china shipping
Now playing
02:52
Experts say China's economy is losing steam. Here's why
China wechat LGBTQ crackdown culver pkg intl hnk vpx_00023723.png
China wechat LGBTQ crackdown culver pkg intl hnk vpx_00023723.png
Now playing
03:35
China widens crackdown on LGBTQ groups and content
A driver uses the Didi Chuxing ride-hailing app on his smartphone while driving along the street in Beijing on July 2, 2021. (Photo by Jade GAO / AFP) (Photo by JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images)
Jade Gao/AFP/Getty Images
A driver uses the Didi Chuxing ride-hailing app on his smartphone while driving along the street in Beijing on July 2, 2021. (Photo by Jade GAO / AFP) (Photo by JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:13
Didi shares plummet after China bans it from app stores
Printing presses of Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper print the final edition in the predawn hours.
Ivan Watson
Printing presses of Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper print the final edition in the predawn hours.
Now playing
02:33
See opposition newspaper print the last edition before shutdown
--FILE--A Chinese nurse attends newborn babies at a hospital in Xiangyang city, central China's Hubei province, 22 February 2018. China is reported to be planning to eliminate the law that says each family can only have two children. China, the most populous nation in the world, is said to be planning to remove all limits on the number of children a family can have, according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be a historic move to end to a policy that caused many controversial disputes and left the world's second-largest economy short of labor. The State Council, China's cabinet, has commissioned research on the repercussions of ending the country's policy which has lasts roughly four decades and intends to enact the change nationwide, said the people, who asked not to be named. The leadership wants to reduce the pace of aging in China's population and remove a source of international criticism, one of the people said.  (Imaginechina via AP Images)
Gong bo/Imaginechina/AP
--FILE--A Chinese nurse attends newborn babies at a hospital in Xiangyang city, central China's Hubei province, 22 February 2018. China is reported to be planning to eliminate the law that says each family can only have two children. China, the most populous nation in the world, is said to be planning to remove all limits on the number of children a family can have, according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be a historic move to end to a policy that caused many controversial disputes and left the world's second-largest economy short of labor. The State Council, China's cabinet, has commissioned research on the repercussions of ending the country's policy which has lasts roughly four decades and intends to enact the change nationwide, said the people, who asked not to be named. The leadership wants to reduce the pace of aging in China's population and remove a source of international criticism, one of the people said. (Imaginechina via AP Images)
Now playing
02:18
China to allow parents to have up to three children
A woman walks past the headquarters of ByteDance, the parent company of video sharing app TikTok, in Beijing on September 16, 2020. - Silicon Valley tech giant Oracle is "very close" to sealing a deal to become the US partner to Chinese-owned video app TikTok to avert a ban in the United States, President Donald Trump said on September 15. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)
Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images
A woman walks past the headquarters of ByteDance, the parent company of video sharing app TikTok, in Beijing on September 16, 2020. - Silicon Valley tech giant Oracle is "very close" to sealing a deal to become the US partner to Chinese-owned video app TikTok to avert a ban in the United States, President Donald Trump said on September 15. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:40
ByteDance CEO is stepping down
Now playing
05:21
Inside the logistics system behind Alibaba
CCTV
Now playing
01:47
See rescue effort to save dozens of puppies from 'mystery box' online sale
BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 25: People walk by the flagship store of clothing brand H&M at a shopping area on March 25, 2021 in Beijing, China. Many on Chinese social networking platforms called for boycotts of major Western brands, including H&M, after statements made by the companies in the past about Xinjiang cotton resurfaced online. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 25: People walk by the flagship store of clothing brand H&M at a shopping area on March 25, 2021 in Beijing, China. Many on Chinese social networking platforms called for boycotts of major Western brands, including H&M, after statements made by the companies in the past about Xinjiang cotton resurfaced online. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Now playing
04:25
Western brands slammed in China over Xinjiang stance
Biden US China tech war Wang pkg intl hnk vpx_00010025.png
Biden US China tech war Wang pkg intl hnk vpx_00010025.png
Now playing
02:37
US-China tech rivalry will likely continue under Biden presidency. Here's why
Jack Ma makes his first public appearance since late October in a new video published on January 20 by Tianmu News, a subsidiary of the Zhejiang government's official newspaper.
Tianmu News
Jack Ma makes his first public appearance since late October in a new video published on January 20 by Tianmu News, a subsidiary of the Zhejiang government's official newspaper.
Now playing
02:20
See Jack Ma's first public appearance in months
HONG KONG - 2019/04/06: In this photo illustration a Chinese online payment platform owned by Alibaba Group, Alipay, logo is seen on an Android mobile device with People's Republic of China flag in the background. (Photo Illustration by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images/LightRocket/LightRocket via Getty Images
HONG KONG - 2019/04/06: In this photo illustration a Chinese online payment platform owned by Alibaba Group, Alipay, logo is seen on an Android mobile device with People's Republic of China flag in the background. (Photo Illustration by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:40
How China's Ant Group built a $17 trillion payments machine
A pedestrians walks past HSBC signage in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on July 31, 2017.
HSBC said on July 31 pre-tax profit for the first half of 2017 had risen five percent to 10.2 billion USD compared with the same period last year, in what it called an "excellent" result following a turbulent 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ISAAC LAWRENCE        (Photo credit should read ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP via Getty Images)
Issac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images
A pedestrians walks past HSBC signage in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on July 31, 2017. HSBC said on July 31 pre-tax profit for the first half of 2017 had risen five percent to 10.2 billion USD compared with the same period last year, in what it called an "excellent" result following a turbulent 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ISAAC LAWRENCE (Photo credit should read ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
03:31
HSBC may have to choose between China and the West
Hong Kong CNN Business —  

One of China’s richest men has been criticized for endorsing the controversial culture of 12-hour workdays in the country’s red-hot tech industry, saying employees who worked longer hours will get the “rewards of hard work.”

Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA), has spoken out on social media in recent days in support of the Chinese work practice known as “996.” The number refers to working from 9 am to 9 pm six days a week and is said to be common among the country’s big technology companies and start-ups.

“If we find things we like, 996 is not a problem,” Ma said in a blog post Sunday on Chinese social media site Weibo. “If you don’t like [your work], every minute is torture,” he added.

Ma’s comments prompted criticism from Chinese social media users.

“Did you ever think about the elderly at home who need care, (or) the children who need company?” wrote a Weibo user with the online moniker stupidcan123, in response to Ma’s post. “If all enterprises enforce a 996 schedule, no one will have children” because of a lack of time, they added.

Chinese state media also slammed those companies that make staff put in long hours at the office, without referencing Ma’s post directly. “Advocating hard work and commitment does not mean forcing overtime,” wrote state-run newspaper People’s Daily in a commentary published Sunday. “The mandatory enforcement of 996 overtime culture not only reflects the arrogance of business managers, but also is unfair and impractical.”

’Not simply overtime work’

Ma said that he did not intend to defend the practice of working long hours, but wanted to “pay tribute” to employees who did.

“The real 996 is not simply overtime work,” he said, adding that everyone has the right to choose their own lifestyle but those who work shorter hours “won’t taste the happiness and rewards of hard work.”

Ma is arguably China’s best-known entrepreneur. The tech tycoon was famously born into a poor family and did not succeed academically. He started Alibaba using cash scraped together from friends.

The 54-year old executive first waded into the debate over China’s long working hours on Thursday, when comments he made to Alibaba employees about 996 were posted on the company’s Weibo account. Ma said he had never regretted working 12-hour days.

“I personally think that 996 is a huge blessing,” he said. “How do you achieve the success you want without paying extra effort and time?”

Ma added that any prospective employees of Alibaba, one of the world’s biggest tech companies, should be prepared to work 12 hours a day if they want to succeed. “Or why bother joining? We don’t lack those who work eight hours comfortably,” he said.

Other high-profile figures in China’s tech industry have reportedly defended long working hours in the technology industry. Richard Liu, founder of Alibaba rival JD.com (JD), reportedly criticized employees at the company who did not work hard enough as “slackers.”

A spokesperson for Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Ma’s social media posts or the company’s policy on overtime.

Long workdays in the high tech sector are not unique to China. Tesla (TSLA) co-founder Elon Musk has previously said he worked up to 120 hours per week when the electric vehicle maker struggled with production delays.

“There are way easier places to work, but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week,” he posted on social media site Twitter in November last year.