US will ‘suffer more’ in trade war with China: Alibaba’s Jack Ma

Cold-war style offensive by America is an ill-advised miscalculation that will cause pain ‘all over the world’, warn top executives of Chinese conglomerate

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2018, 12:58pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 4:05pm

American efforts to launch a cold war of sorts against Beijing to neutralise the rise of Asia’s biggest economy are “ill advised”, Alibaba Group’s top executives said on Wednesday.

The company’s co-founder Jack Ma told the South China Morning Post ’s China Conference in Kuala Lumpur he believed the United States would “suffer more” from the dispute – but added he remained optimistic because “as entrepreneurs if you are not optimistic [you shouldn’t be] entrepreneurs”.

Speaking via video link to the audience of business leaders and diplomats, Ma said he did not see the logic behind the US tariff offensive to reverse its large trade deficit with China.

More on the Post’s China Conference in Kuala Lumpur

The US economy had in fact benefited from its trade relationship with the China, Ma said, pointing out the Western superpower’s gross domestic product had grown steadily in part because of the outsourcing of jobs to China.

Highlights from the China Conference:

Ma’s second in command, Joe Tsai, the Chinese conglomerate’s executive vice-chairman, had harsher words for Washington as he declared the trade war had morphed into a “cold war or geopolitical war started by the United States”.

“I think what the United States is doing is a reaction to an unfounded fear that China’s rise is somehow going to threaten the national security and well-being of the American people,” said Tsai, who is also the chairman of the Post (which is owned by Alibaba Group).

But that belief was misguided because of the tremendous integration of national economies, he told a panel discussion at the forum.

“It is really ill-advised for the United States to launch a war of some sort targeting China thinking that they can treat China like the way they treated Russia by isolating the economy and bringing on pain,” Tsai said. “We are so integrated that the pain is going to be felt all over the world. Everybody is going to feel the pain.”

US-China tensions: really about trade? CY Leung questions motives

The two corporate titans’ comments followed a speech by US Vice-President Mike Pence that vilified China and was seen by many analysts as carrying cold war tones.

The two-day Post forum in Kuala Lumpur is the paper’s first event outside Hong Kong and is themed around China’s growing footprint in Southeast Asia.