Jack Ma slams Western economic models, says Europe over-regulated – Nikkei Asian Review


Businessman Jack Ma, right, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at the International Monetary Fund/World Bank annual meeting in Bali (Simon Roughneen)

NUSA DUA — Chinese billionaire businessman Jack Ma slammed Western economies as over-regulated during a frank exchange with World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim at a conference in Bali.

“In Europe they don’t like me, in America they don’t like me,” Ma said, drawing laughter from an audience at the International Monetary Fund/World Bank annual meeting that included government representatives from around the world.

“In Europe a lot of people talk about regulations, they love to discuss about the worries, asking what ya gonna do. In America they have their system,” said Ma, who will step down as chairman of Alibaba Group Holding, the Chinese internet giant he founded, in September next year

Ma has been outspoken about the US-China tariff conflict, previously saying that the U.S. would suffer most from any economic tangle with his homeland and predicting two decades of trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies. He said last month that he would not go ahead with pledge made in early 2017 to then President-elect Donald Trump to create up to a million jobs in the U.S., citing the tariff dispute as a reason.

“The promise was made on the premise of friendly US-China partnership and rational trade relations,” Ma told Chinese state news agency Xinhua. “That premise no longer exists today, so our promise cannot be fulfilled.”

Ma declined to answer a question from the Nikkei Asian Review on his U.S. business plans as he posed for photographs with a throng of admirers as he made his way out the door of the conference arena.

Earlier Ma contrasted the business environment in the West with developing countries, which he said remind him of China when he was starting out as a businessman. “Developing countries love to change, they have to change,” he said.

Governments, Ma believes, should allow business people to get on with their work and not over-regulate along the lines of the European Union. “It’s not the government that makes things happen, it’s entrepreneurs.” he said. Governments should “help [businesses], empower them.”

Ma also discussed the importance of fast mobile internet for developing countries, particularly in Africa, where he said he hopes to expand his business operations.

China’s economic and diplomatic heft in Africa has long been a cause of suspicion in the West, which accuses Beijing of buying allies on the continent with huge infrastructure investments.

“When we started there was no internet in China,” Ma said. “It took me three and half hours to download half a picture.”

Citing estimates of 300 million mobile internet users in India and 800 million in China, Ma lauded the spread of affordable and accessible technology as a means to revolutionize developing world economies. “Today internet is so cheap, people can use it,” he exclaimed.

But despite such advances and optimism, Ma said he still sees the same defeatist attitudes elsewhere that he once saw in China before its economic boom.

“We cannot do this, we don’t have that,” is a phrase he said was heard too often in developing countries. “It used to be said in China.”

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