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Alibaba’s chief comes to U.S. to drum up business

Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna BeachJack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach
Jack Ma just had a hunch something was coming.Photograph by Lucy Nicholson — Reuters

Jack Ma will be in New York City and Chicago this week to meet with U.S. business leaders. The goal: winning more of their business for Alibaba (BABA), the Chinese e-commerce giant he founded in 1999, according to Bloomberg News.

Ma, chairman of Alibaba, will be keynote speaker at an Economic Club event in New York on Tuesday and will move on to Chicago to see local executives and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, according to the report.

The visit was characterized as a way to get more U.S.-based companies to sell more stuff on Alibaba’s retail sites, but it’s a good bet he’ll also tout Alibaba’s Aliyun cloud computing business which is expanding in the U.S. Last week, Alibaba announced a deal with Equinix, which runs data centers and interconnection points around the world. That should make it easier for North American companies to use its cloud in China and for Chinese companies to do business in the U.S.

It makes sense: China’s super-heated economy appears to be cooling off and, as Bloomberg pointed out, new policies in China have made it easier for citizens to buy U.S.-made goods.

In early March, Alibaba announced the opening of its first U.S. data center somewhere in Silicon Valley.

Alibaba and Alyun are seen as potential rivals to (AMZN) in online retail and its gigantic Amazon Web Services arm in cloud computing services. Amazon now has a cloud data center presence in Beijing.

But it’s not all straight-out competition. This spring, joined other U.S. brands including Costco and Burberry, in opening an online shop on Alibaba’s Tmall site. This is an online mall that lists products and handles payment processing.