Jack Ma of Alibaba: We Should Be Very Worried About a Trade War

January 18, 2017, 10:29 PM UTC
Alibaba Group Founder and Executive Chairman, China's Jack Ma speaks during a panel session on the second day of the World Economic Forum, on January 18, 2017 in Davos.
Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI AFP—Getty Images

Jack Ma says China and America should think very carefully before starting a trade war.

Speaking on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum, which is taking place this week in Davos, the CEO of Alibaba (BABA), China’s largest e-commerce company, said that China should give President-elect Donald Trump some time to settle in before reacting to his rhetoric. Ma’s comments came a day after China’s President Xi Jinping proclaimed China’s commitment to free trade in another Davos speech, while seemingly warning Trump against going down the path of protectionism.

“A trade war would be a disaster for the world,” said Ma. “It’s very easy to slip into a trade war.”

Ma met with Trump earlier this month, and in his Davos remarks he called Trump “open-minded.”

While acknowledging China could do better to make its own economy more open, Ma said that Americans should blame themselves, not China, for any U.S. jobs lost. In a line he has used before, he contrasted Alibaba with Amazon.com: Alibaba tries to use its technology to empower smaller businesses, Ma said, while Amazon, which Alibaba is often compared to, is trying to own every aspect of its business.

“Amazon is an empire,” said Ma. “We want to build an ecosystem, and help other companies grow to be the next Amazons.”

Still, Ma said that the governments of America and China and the business communities of both countries should do whatever it takes to stop a trade war. If he faced a choice between keeping his company alive or averting a trade war, “I would shut Alibaba down,” said Ma. “Everyone should do everything they have to to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

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