Jack Ma is winding down his time at Alibaba — the Chinese e-commerce giant he created and will leave next year — and his melancholy view of U.S.-China relations has him walking back his promise to create 1 million American jobs.
Just before Donald Trump was sworn in as President, Ma — like other global business leaders — made the pilgrimage to Trump Tower in New York, where the two talked about creating 1 million U.S. jobs by helping American small businesses sell through the site.
Now, Ma is taking back that goal.
He told the official Chinese news service the promise was based on friendly cooperation and rational trade growth between the U.S. and China.
“The previous basis for trade has been undermined,” Ma said. “But we will continue to work hard to promote the healthy development of China-U.S. trade.”
The billionaire added that trade should not be a weapon but “the propeller of peace.”
Earlier this week, Ma told Alibaba shareholders that the trade war between the U.S. and China — characterized by significant tariff hikes and threats of more — could last well beyond the Trump presidency.
“It’s going to last long,” Ma said. “It’s going to be a mess. Maybe 20 years. I don’t think it will stop in 20 months or 20 days. It’s not about the trade war, it’s about the competition of two countries.”
In the latest volley, Trump this week said he would impose new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. China quickly retaliated with its own duties on $60 billion in U.S. imports.
Ma, at least, is moving on.
Earlier this month, he unexpectedly revealed that he would step down next September. Ma also played down rumors that he was forced out as Beijing seeks to gain more influence over private companies, saying his departure had been planned for a decade.
“This is something that you’re not doing for one day, what you want to do, you have to prepare for long time,” he said.