On the second day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma shared his own candid thoughts on America’s economic woes.
Relations between China and the United States have been a bit bumpy lately with US President-elect Donald Trump accusing China of “raping” America, stealing American jobs and hurting American workers through unfair trade practices, intellectual property theft and currency manipulation. In response, Trump has advocated for protectionism including sky-high tariffs on made-in-China goods.
However, Ma, the founder of the world’s largest online retailer, believes that when it comes to globalization the US ought to look in the mirror rather than overseas.
“American international companies made millions and millions of dollars from globalization,” Ma said. “The past 30 years, companies like IBM, Cisco and Microsoft made tons of money.”
So, where’d it all go?
“In the past 30 years, America has had 13 wars at a cost of $14.2 trillion,” he continued. “That’s where the money went”
Ma went on to question Washington’s decision to bankroll Wall Street instead of the American worker following the 2008 financial crash.
“What if they had spent part of that money on building up their infrastructure, helping white-collar and blue-collar workers? You’re supposed to spend money on your own people,” he said.
“It’s not that other countries steal jobs from you guys, it’s your strategy. Distribute the money and things in a proper way.”
It’s not clear if Ma brought any of this up during his meeting earlier this month with the president-elect. During his visit to the Trump Tower, Ma pledged to help American small business owners bigly, vowing to create 1 million jobs in the US over the next 5 years by expanding his online retail service.
And yet, if faced with the choice of keeping his company alive or averting a potentially devastating US-China trade war, he said he would still choose the latter.
“I would shut Alibaba down,” he said. “Everyone should do everything they have to to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
But not to worry Alibaba share holders, Ma doesn’t think shutting down his company will be necessary. He described Trump as “open-minded” and “listening” when it comes to globalization.
Which will come as good news for Chinese President Xi Jinping. The day before, Xi gave an hour-long speech in Davos that seemed to be a direct attack against Trump’s protectionist rhetoric, pointing towards the benefits of free trade and warning that there will be no winners in a trade war.
By Matt Bonini
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