Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba will break $1 trillion in sales in the next five years, according to Jack Ma, the company’s chairman and founder.
A key part of this growth will be letting U.S. small businesses sell to Chinese consumers, he said during a town hall meeting in Chicago for small business owners. Ma said he wants to add 10 million U.S. small businesses to Alibaba so they can sell to China’s rising middle class, which is already equal in the size of the entire U.S. population and is expected to double in seven years.
“I think it’s simple,” Ma explained to the session’s host, American Express Chairman and CEO Ken Chenault. “[Create] innovative products and services and bring them to China. China in the next 10 years will become the largest importer in the world. We have to do importing to serve 1.3 billion people.”
Ma is on a U.S. road show to address the company’s future strategy. At an event earlier in the week in New York, Ma said he has no ambitions to compete with Amazon (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY) in the U.S. Instead, he wants Alibaba (BABA) to help U.S. companies sell to China.
In Chicago, Ma shared a few more details about his vision. He said he wants this yet unnamed service to also handle logistics and shipping to China for customers, and help with the digital payments. Alibaba already has created a logistics company, Cainiao, and an online and mobile payments business Alipay, both of which are looking to expand their international footprint.
Alipay has more than 300 million registered users globally. PayPal, in contrast, has 165 million registered users.
“Anybody, if you have items, you can sell abroad,” Ma said. “Chinese people love American products…when you have 120 million people shopping on our site every day, you can almost sell everything.”
Part of the plan could also include convincing regulators to lower the import taxes for small businesses selling to China. “If a U.S. small businesses sells to China for less than $1 million [in sales] it should be tax-free,” Ma argued. “And is a Chinese business sells to U.S. for less than $1 million [in sales] it should be tax-free.”
Although Ma sales pitch was characteristically upbeat, its success is uncertain. Small business owners must decide if there is real demand for their products by Chinese consumers and that using Alibaba is worth it.
According to a CNBC report, Ma spoke about sale of cherries from the Pacific Northwest as an example of small businesses using Alibaba to sell to Chinese consumers. But while a cherry industry group said it was a positive experience, it added that the partnership didn’t translate into a meaningful amount of cherry sales.
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