Bruce Einhorn and Frederik Balfour of BusinessWeek profile Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, in an article entitled “Jack Ma is the loneliest billionaire in China”. Clearly, the man knows how to talk in such a way as to get western journalists to listen up:
Ma has been spending time in the Bay Area. He rents a home there, and he has audited history courses at Berkeley, where his son is an undergraduate. The time in the U.S. has clearly rubbed off on him. “I want people to learn what democracy means,” he says. One way to do that: The company’s 25,000 employees elect 10 representatives who determine how Alibaba spends part of its philanthropy budget. “This is the first test in China of a real democracy,” Ma says.
The Chinese government isn’t terribly interested in testing democracy, of course. Beijing is showing an interest, however, in what Alibaba does. In the past, Ma thought the best way to keep the government happy was for Alibaba to do well and create jobs. But, he says, “when you have millions of [small companies] using your site and billions of dollars of transactions every day, the government cares.” In 2011, after the fraud and counterfeiting scandals, Ma met with government officials 40 to 50 times. “I try my best to talk with them and make sure they understand what we are doing,” he says. [Read entire article here]