Prime Minister John Key has met with one of China's richest men, billionaire business magnate Jack Ma.

Ma, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is worth US$23 billion according to Forbes magazine.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key with Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group, at lunch in Beijing. Photo / Supplied
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key with Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group, at lunch in Beijing. Photo / Supplied

Ma established the business in 1999 and has been described by some employees as its "spiritual leader".

The 51-year-old has a reputation as an eccentric and once sang the theme to the Lion King at a company event.

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Key's meeting with Ma comes early on into his visit to China, his sixth visit to Asia's largest economy as Prime Minister.