Davos 2017: An Insight, An Idea with Alibaba Founder, Jack Ma (Transcript)

Interviewer: Tom Friedman, at the New York Times.

Jack Ma: And I think it’s a perfect strategy. You know that the American said, ‘We just want to control the IP, we just want the technology, we just want the brand and leave the lower end jobs for the world. Great strategy. And the second is that the American international companies made millions and millions of dollars from globalization, the top 10 — top 100 companies in America; amazing. I remember when I graduate from university, I tried to buy a beeper, the Motorola beeper cost me $250. My pay at that time was $10 a month as a teacher. And the cost of making that beeper is only $8 for a chip.

So the past 30 years, IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, they made a tons of them and the money, the profit they made are much more than the four largest banks in China put together — China Mobile, China Unicom and whatever you name it, put together, still these multinational companies made more money. So their market cap grew more than 100 times in the past 30 years. But where did the money go? This is what I’m curious, because, as a business people I always care about the balance sheet: where is the money coming, where does the money go?

Past 30 years, America had 13 wars, spending $14.2 trillion, the money going there. What if they spent a part of their money on building of the infrastructure, helping the white collars and blue collars? No matter how strategy good it is, you’re supposed to spend money on your own people, right? Not everybody can pass Harvard — like me, not good at education, right? We should spend money on those people who are not good at schooling.

And the other money which I am curious about is that when I was young, I heard America is about Ford, Boeing, those big manufacturing companies. The last 10, 20 years what I heard about is Silicon Valley and Wall Street. The money go to the Wall Street. And what happened year 2008? The financial crisis wiped out $19.2 trillion USA alone. They wiped out all of the white collars and destroyed 34 million jobs globally. So what if the money — it’s not on Wall Street. What if the money spent on the middle east, mid-west of the United States? Developing the industry there, that could be changed a lot. So it’s not the other countries steal jobs from you guys. It is your strategy.

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Interviewer: OK, but —

Jack Ma: But you do not distribute the money and things in a proper way.

Interviewer: This is what I — and now we are having a backlash. And that backlash is a rebuke of globalization in so much of the conversation frankly that we have here. And that backlash is happening in the United States but I will say President Xi was here yesterday, you had lunch with him. And he was quoting Abraham Lincoln. What did you make of that?

Jack Ma: Well, I would say that the globalization is a great stuff. It’s the USA, it’s developed countries that teach us how to do globalization. I remember 2002 when China joined the WTO, everybody in China was so worried. Me? I was worried because what if all the international products come to China, destroy our industry and we lose our job. So convinced China, after 20 years, then you guys are telling, say, this is a terrible thing. I believe globalization is good but globalization need to be improved. This is Donald Trump, president elect want to solve the problems, that globalization I think should be inclusive globalization.

In the past 30 years, the globalization was controlled by 60,000 big companies. A hundred years ago, globalization was controlled by several kings and emperors. What if the next 30 years we can support 6 million businesses doing business across the board? What if the next 30 years we can help support 20 million small businesses, can do business across the board. So this is something which I believe globalization should be inclusive.

Interviewer: And do you think that the words of President Xi will happen in reality, which is to say that China has largely acted on its own behalf for many many years and now is effectively saying that the U.S. needs to continue acting on everybody else’s behalf?

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Jack Ma: Yeah, I think the world needs some — it’s such a — Mr. Xi yesterday said it’s a wonderful time, it’s the best time or the worst time. The world needs a new leadership but the new leadership is about working together. This is what I understand. We do not necessarily need one specific leader to teach us what to do, what not to do. But the world have to partner together. This is what I think. And I think I like as a Chinese, as a business people I like, I feel proud for what President Xi said yesterday. As a business person I want the world to share the prosperity together, to join the force together. As a Chinese, I’m happy about what he committed. Yesterday he said — he speaks like us take the responsibility of the second largest economy. As the China, second largest economy, he has to take some responsibility. This is the first time I heard a Chinese leader make number commitment. He said next 10 years we are going to import $8 trillion. This makes me feel excited, because China is transforming from exporting to importing. If there is a concrete number, if we keep fuel it, this is going to be a huge change to China and to the world.

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