While England and America, the founder of globalization and the coiner of the term, respectively, continue to see some politicians vilify companies that use the international marketplace to access less expensive materials and labor, Alibaba’s chairman and founder thinks they’re waging a losing battle.
“When you learn, when you embrace change, you stand a chance,” Ma said during a keynote presentation for a sold out conference in Detroit focused on small business and China. “People complain about globalization, but nobody can stop it. It will continue.”
Despite characterizing himself as a “strong believer” in globalization, Ma said the economic movement has done some things to earn its negative reputation, namely being controlled and “manipulated” first by emperors and kings, then by the largest businesses purely for their own gain.
“The past 20 years, globalization was designed for big companies,” Ma said. “Young people had no chance, small businesses had no chance, women had no chance, developing countries had no chance.”
But now with the exponential growth and rise of the Internet, Ma said the economically disenfranchised groups are becoming power players that are at the root of economic expansion in China and elsewhere. And he’s already looking ahead to a time when the world economy is even smaller and more unified.
“Global buy and global sell will happen in the next 10 years,” Ma proclaimed. “If you want a coconut from Thailand, in 72 hours you’ll receive it.”
Ma went on to say that this reality of global shipments becoming faster than most local shipments are now is one of Alibaba’s main goals, and that he’s working to make sure governments around the world enact policies “for small businesses to import and export freely.”
“Every country says small business is so important, small companies are the driver of employment, we know this, but not every government set routes for them to be successful. They’re set for big companies,” Ma said.
He added that he was “very happy” with Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Trump’s April meeting, which China’s Foreign Ministry said at the time focused on bilateral trade and investment.
Easier trade is seen by Ma as key to American businesses being able to satisfy the growing consumer demand in China, which has a current population of about 1.4 billion and is projected to be home to a middle class of up to 600 million within a decade.
Ma said the demand for quality American products in China is “huge” and joked that it’s difficult for a country of only 300 million people to understand just how many 1.4 billion people is after pointing out there are 102 cities in China with more than one million people, while there are only 10 in the U.S.
“A city of one million is like a village in China,” Ma quipped.
Jokes aside, Ma said consumers in China will undoubtedly “change the landscape of the global economy” in the years to come and warned that those businesses and entrepreneurs who think globalization is the enemy won’t make it very far.
“If you’re losing China, if you’re losing developing countries in Asia, if you’re losing Internet e-commerce, you will lose the future,” Ma said. “If you’re not a global business, you’re out of business.”
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