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

Interviewer: Do you think that it’s easier today for China to be interested in globalization because of the benefits that can accrue to China because you’re continuing to develop than it is for countries that are ‘developed’?

Jack Ma: Well, first, the WTO rule is not decided by China. It’s not made by China. I will say there’s something that I want to change WTO is design — lot of the rules designed for big companies in the past 30 years — and only big companies can do it. And China definitely benefits a lot from opening. I think China should learn one thing: that we grew in the past 30 years, it’s because we opened to the world. If we continue to open —

Interviewer: Well, not fully. Not fully. American business that wants to effectively go into business in China has a very difficult time, has to partner effectively with a company that’s there already.

Jack Ma: This is why I said China has problems too. The world has problems and China definitely has a lot of problems. China should open, [should be more confidence]. This is what I feel yesterday, I feel the confidence of Mr. Xi that he is ready to open more to the world. This is what I suggest that we should solve the problem by business community, by negotiation. The China joined WTO for like, 20 years or 70 years, I don’t know the number. But the past years that I think we as a business, we as a country, we as the world, we have to review something. But not because unbalance the things, we stop it.

Interviewer: You’ve been calling for something called eWTP. What is that?

Jack Ma: This is what I would talk about, is that the WTO was great but they’re mainly designed for developed countries’ big companies. There’s no opportunity for small businesses. We want to build up an Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) to support young people, small business, through mobile phones, internet they can sell, buy, across the board. And the other thing is that WTO is a very interesting organization, when you put door around — when you put 200 government officers in one room, ask them to agree on something: it’s impossible. I can never imagine that they can agree on something together. Business should be decided by business people. So we believe eWTP should be something that the business people sit down together, agree on something, negotiate on something and get endorsement from the government.

Interviewer: Let’s talk a little bit about Alibaba and the model itself, because I think for many in the West, if you will, they don’t necessarily understand it. And to the extent that — to the extent that I could try to compare it to Amazon, which I know you think is an unfair comparison. One of the things that’s so fascinating to me is that Amazon and Jeff Bezos have pursued what might be described as a very asset heavy business model. They’re buying airplanes, they want to own the entire supply chain from beginning to end. And Alibaba has effectively an asset like business, it is very much in terms of the retail piece of this, the opposite. You don’t want to own the warehouses, you don’t want to own the logistics companies. How do you think about that? Is Jeff Bezos right or are you right? And is there going to be a meeting in the middle?

Jack Ma: I hope both are right. And because the world can never have a one model. If the world has only one correct model, the world is too boring. We need to have all kinds of models. And the people who do the model should believe in the model and I believe what I do, right? The difference between Amazon and us: Amazon is more like an empire; everything they should control themselves: buy and sell. And our philosophy is that we want to be an ecosystem. Our philosophy is to empower others to sell, empower others to service, empower — make sure the other people are more powerful than us, making sure with our technology, our innovation, our partners, our 10 million small business sellers, they can compete with Microsoft, IBM. Our philosophy is that we think using Internet technology we can make every company become Amazon.

Remember one thing, today for ourselves, our GMP last year is more than $550 billion US. To hire people deliver for us we need 5 million people. So how can we hire 5 million people deliver things for us, to deliver the things we sold? The only way we do is empower the service companies, logistics companies, making sure they’re efficient, making sure that they make the money, and making sure that they can hire more people.

Interviewer: Without owning the whole chain, can you do it as effectively — the idea that you’re having — watching Amazon being able to deliver things now within hours literally?

Jack Ma: We made 125 cities deliver within one day last year. Imagine, ten years ago, deliver one thing from Beijing to Hangzhou takes about 8 days. Now you could deliver things from Beijing to Inner Mongolia or some city within 12 hours. It’s improving. You can never expect these things happen within 24 hours, we have patience. So I think, can you imagine that within the 11.11 Singles’ Day we sold $17 billion and by delivering more than 600 million packages within 3 days. This is happening. And this is what we feel proud of, it’s not how much money we make, it’s not how powerful we are. We think because of the technology we can make the technology very inclusive, that every small companies can use it. This is my dream. Because I started my first business in 1992 in China as a small business. In order to borrow money $5000 from bank took me three months to acquire, still failed. So difficult to be a small business. Today with the technology we can empower them. This is something I want to do.

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