Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba — often referred to as the Amazon of China — has called on the Chinese government to issue harsher penalties to people selling counterfeit goods, The Financial Times (FT) reports.
Fuelled by an abundance of cheap manufacturing labour, China is infamous for its fake iPhones and other knock-off electronics, but Ma, whose business efforts are likely impacted by fake goods, appears to have had enough.
In an open letter to delegates at the National People’s Congress and The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, he suggested treating counterfeit sellers in the same way as drink drivers, the FT reports.
“If, for example, we imposed a seven-day prison sentence for every fake product sold, the world would look very different both in terms of intellectual property enforcement and food and drug safety, as well as our ability to foster innovation,” he wrote in the letter, which was reportedly published on Weibo, a Chinese platform that’s similar to Twitter.
Ma, one of the wealthiest individuals in China, blamed soft penalties and poorly enforced laws for the surge in fakes across China. He highlighted how 99% of counterfeit activities go unchecked in China, despite laws that prohibit such activities. “There is a lot of bark around stopping counterfeits, but no bite,” he reportedly said.
Ma’s comments signify a U-turn in thinking, as he previously said that counterfeits are often better quality than genuine items, according to The Wall Street Journal.