DAVOS, Switzerland — Alibaba founder Jack Ma thinks America went wrong over the last 30 years when it focused too much on war and Wall Street. Speaking at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, Ma was asked about globalisation, and the reaction to it represented by the election of Donald Trump as US president.
He responded that back when Thomas Friedman published “The World Is Flat,” globalisation looked like “a perfect strategy” for the US: “We just want the technology, and the IP, and the brand, and we’ll leave the other jobs” to other countries like Mexico and China.
“American international companies made millions and millions of dollars from globalisation,” Ma said.
As an example of just how much was available, Ma said, “When I graduated from university I tried to buy a beeper, and it cost me $250. My pay at the time was $10 a month.”
“IBM, Microsoft, the profit they made was larger than the top four banks in China put together. … But where did the money go?”
Ma said that 30 years ago, the American companies that people in China heard about were Ford and Boeing. Today, the companies that people in China talk about are in Silicon Valley and Wall Street.
At the same time, the US spent a lot of money on foreign conflicts. “In the past 30 years, America had 13 wars spending $14.2 trillion … no matter how good your strategy is you’re supposed to spend money on your own people,” Ma said. “The money goes to Wall Street. Then what happened? Year 2008 wiped out $19.2 trillion in US income. … What if the money was spent on the Midwest of the United States [instead]?”
“The other countries steal jobs from you guys — that is your strategy. You did not distribute the money in the proper way.”
Ma also dropped two other pearls of wisdom. His favourite film is Forrest Gump because he sees something of Alibaba in Gump’s shrimp boat. In the film, according to Ma, Gump says “‘Nobody makes money catching whales, people make money catching shrimps.’ That’s how we make money” at Alibaba.
He also revealed that he wants to retire early: “I don’t want to die in my office,” he said. “I want to die on the beaches.”