Global Cooperation

Jack Ma: America has wasted its wealth

Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland

The US has benefited immensely from globalization, but it didn’t distribute those benefits fairly Image: REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Stéphanie Thomson
Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Jack Ma, one of China’s most successful and richest entrepreneurs, has responded to America’s growing globalization backlash, arguing that the superpower has benefited immensely from the process – but that it has largely squandered its wealth.

“American international companies made millions and millions of dollars from globalization,” Ma – the founder of Alibaba, the world’s largest online retailer – told participants on the second day of Davos. “The past 30 years, companies like IBM, Cisco and Microsoft made tons of money.”

The question is: where did that money go? It was wasted, Ma explained.

“In the past 30 years, America has had 13 wars at a cost of $14.2 trillion. That’s where the money went.” He also questioned America’s decision to bankroll Wall Street after the 2008 financial crash, arguing the money would have been better spent in other areas.

“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.”

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It’s not globalization – and everything that comes along with it, like free trade and outsourcing – that’s to blame for America’s woes. It’s the way the country’s elite managed the process.

“It’s not that other countries steal American jobs; it is your strategy – that you did not distribute the money in a proper way.”

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom in the session. In fact, Ma remains hopeful that globalization can still be a great force for good – for both the US and China. It just needs to be reformed.

“I believe globalization is good, but it needs to be improved. It should be inclusive globalization.”

Ma thinks that should be achievable – and he says President-elect Donald Trump is on board with him. “He’s open-minded and he’s listening,” he told participants.

The two men met recently in New York and had a lot more in common than might be expected.

“We spoke about how we can help small American businesses sell their products in China and Asia through our network, which can create a lot of jobs for them.”

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump walks from an elevator with Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma after their meeting at Trump Tower in New York, U.S., January 9, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTX2Y71Q
US President-elect Donald Trump and Jack Ma had a meeting in New York in early January Image: REUTERS/Mike Segar

For all the talk of trade wars between the two economic powerhouses, Ma says that’s unthinkable, and thinks they would instead benefit from working together on this more inclusive form of globalization.

“China and the US will never have a trade war… It would be a disaster for both countries and the world.”

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