IBM, Microsoft, US Govt all to blame for globalisation backlash: Jack Ma
It's your own fault, Trump-friendly tycoon tells Davos
Silicon Valley’s tech plutocrats have kept a relatively low profile at Davos, the WEF’s schmoozefest for corporate, government and NGO elites. But into the void stepped Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba.
Alibaba is the gigantic, tat bazaar that has eclipsed the company it copied: eBay. Ma used to encourage new hires to perform handstands because "Ebay looks less fearsome when you're upside down”, and staff would join hands for a company song whose lyrics taught them that, "You have to go through a thunderstorm to see a rainbow".
This month Ma met one-to-win with President-elect Trump, something that even Google couldn’t wangle. There, he promised that Alibaba will create “a million jobs” in the United States, a claim that was met with much scepticism. (Alibaba only employs around 45,000 worldwide, and the “million” would be small business marketplace traders - who already trade through eBay and Amazon’s platforms).
In turn, Ma found Trump "very open-minded, much more than I thought."
However empty Ma’s pledge may be, it allowed the Chinese tycoon to claim the moral high ground, highlighting a contrast with America’s indigenous web giants. Lionised by the Obama administration, these US companies are now castigated for destroying jobs - via drones, “sharing economy” use of casual labour, and their almost pathological distaste for taking any kind of liability. Obama loved Google and the only jobs he mentioned was Steve Jobs - no wonder Team Trump was pleased.
In an interview at Davos, Ma boasted that Alibaba had a better business model than Amazon, because it didn’t want to compete as a retailer. Instead it was all about the ecosystem.
“To hire people to deliver for us, we need 5 million people, to deliver the things we sold. How can we hire 5 million people? The only way we can do it is to empower the service companies, the logistics companies. Make sure they are efficient. Making sure that they make the money. Making sure they can hire more people. “
Ma thought that the backlash against globalisation was the fault of the United States. Successive administrations had decided to withdraw from manufacturing and merely focus on high value sectors.
"We just want the IP, the technology, and the brand, and we'll leave the other jobs”, is how he characterised it.
"It is not that the other countries steal jobs from you guys — that is your strategy. You did not distribute the money in the proper way."
"IBM, Microsoft, the profit they made was larger than the top four banks in China put together ... But where did the money go?"
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