Jack Ma is perhaps one of Chinese billionaires who could talk sense into incoming President Donald Trump. After all, it takes one billionaire to know (and understand) another billionaire. It would be a suicidal mission to send a Chinese full-time politician from Beijing to talk, let alone lecture, a super-rich President-elect Trump.
With less than 2 weeks before Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, China is doing everything in its power to pull the new president on the right track. After Trump deliberately provoked Beijing with a tweet about his wonderful phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, threatening to breach the “One China” policy, all hell breaks loose.
As the incoming commander-in-chief, Trump might be eager to a military confrontation with China. He has a gorgeous wife and lots of money. But he hasn’t gotten to taste the power that comes with the job in the Oval Office. While China is determined not to be intimidated by Washington, military isn’t their first option against the mighty United States.
Trump administration might be emotional against Beijing but the Chinese are practical people. Why starts a war when they can feed the U.S. president with something he desires more – jobs for the American people. Jack Ma isn’t just another ordinary Chinese billionaire who founded the highly successful Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
Mr. Ma has strong ties to mainland business interests and to the ruling party – Chinese Communist Party. From an e-commerce tycoon, he was allowed to become a media tycoon with the acquisition of the Hong Kong media group of the South China Morning Post (SCMP), after acquired stakes in Business Review, China Business Network and Youku Tudou.
With the blessing from Beijing, Jack Ma also splashed money into Sina Weibo, ChinaVision Media, Beijing Enlight Media, Snapchat and Tango. Amid growing tensions between China and the incoming Trump administration, Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma met with president-elect Donald Trump on Monday – discussing how to help U.S. small businesses.
As a businessman, Trump was particularly attracted by Ma’s proposal to create 1-million U.S. jobs by growing trade between U.S. small businesses and Chinese consumers. “We had a great meeting, and a great, great entrepreneur, one of the best in the world, and he loves this country, and he loves China,” Trump said. “Jack and I are going to do some great things.”
“It was a very productive meeting. The door is open to discuss the relationship on trade issues. We think that China and U.S.A. relationship should be strengthened, should be friendlier,” Mr. Ma said to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower. Ma specifically mentioned agricultural products such as garments, wine and fruits that could be sold through Alibaba to consumers in China and Asia.
“Alibaba will create 1 million U.S. jobs by enabling 1 million American small businesses and farmers to sell American goods to China and Asian consumers on the Alibaba platform,” Alibaba said in a statement. A recent eMarketer report estimates Chinese consumers are expected to spend more than US$150 billion on foreign goods by 2020.
Coincidently, Jack Ma’s pledge to create 1 million U.S. jobs comes after Japanese tech giant Softbank, whose CEO Masayoshi Son is on Alibaba’s board, has reiterated a commitment to create 50,000 U.S. jobs after meeting with Trump last month. It appears both billionaires knew which button to press in order to crack the tough TV-reality star “The Apprentice”.
However, Alibaba has a complicated relationship with U.S. regulators. The company faced an SEC investigation about its accounting methods last year, and its property, Taobao, has been rebuked by American trade officials for allowing sale of counterfeit goods. But Alibaba claimed the decision may have been political – blaming Obama administration.
Clearly, Jack Ma’s visit was to recalibrate Donald Trump’s perception about doing business with China. As Scott Kennedy, director of the Project on Chinese Business & Political Economy at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, said – “The purpose of Jack Ma’s visit was to frame Alibaba’s business with the U.S. in a framework Donald Trump understands.”
Even if Mr. Ma couldn’t swing Trump’s perception towards a friendlier Beijing-Washington relationship, Alibaba wants to highlight how it is different from Chinese state-owned enterprises in steel and other traditional sectors, areas that the Trump administration is most likely to target for sanctions as part of its effort to open up China’s markets further to U.S. goods and investment.”
Strategically, it’s beneficial to have Alibaba as Trump’s business ally. Both Jack Ma and Trump has a common enemy – Amazon. Besides being Alibaba’s business rival, Amazon has been extremely critical of Donald Trump during his presidency campaign. Amazon’s boss – Jeff Bezos – has been at war with Trump using his media “The Washington Post”
If Alibaba could create 1-million U.S. jobs and at the same time reduce the monopoly of Amazon, it would be an irresistible offer for Trump administration. Perhaps that’s why Michael Evans, president of Alibaba Group who happens to be Trump’s friend, was convinced by Jack Ma (on behalf of Beijing) to broker the Monday meeting with Donald.