Alibaba’s Jack Ma Says Give Love a Chance to Avoid Global Conflict

Globalization is already causing tension among multinational companies and countries, but leaders employing compassion, smarts and yes – even love – can avoid outright conflict and find ways to mutually benefit, Jack Ma said Friday.

Addressing an audience at a South China Morning Post conference in Hong Kong, the Alibaba Executive Chairman offered a philosophical take on some of the current strains and those to come in the world, such as manufacturing jobs and international trade.

Ma said corporate leaders butting up against rivals and resistance in foreign markets would do well to go beyond tapping a high IQ and even a high emotional quotient (EQ). What’s needed, he said, is a “love quotient,” (LQ) which he explained means going beyond knowing and understanding what challenges and opposition you face in markets. You need to adapt your business aims and perspective, he said.

“You can become a money machine, but what’s the use of that?” said Ma. “If you’re not contributing to the rest of the world, there’s no LQ … Your love is you have to be principled. That’s the bottom line.”

Speaking about China’s so-called, “One Belt, One Road” initiative, he said it “will also bring about its own conflict,” which China and Chinese businesses hoping to take part will have to address if they want to help partner countries and themselves.

“One Belt, One Road,” announced in late 2013, aims to foster connectivity and cooperation among countries on the country’s borders and throughout Eurasia. The strategy is to give China a bigger role in global affairs, creating new opportunities for manufacturing and infrastructure to further develop the domestic economies and the markets of partner countries.

Ma said it’s a hallmark of Chinese companies, for cultural reasons, to shy from conflict, if possible. That Confucian tendency needs to change in dealing with companies and entities in other markets.

“We’re afraid of confrontation. So, when it comes to a vital moment, we back out,” Ma said. “In a business, when you’re growing up, you’re always in a conflict. Progress is how to solve problems in a conflict situation.”

Ma said China brings a lot to the table in “One Belt, One Road,” having accumulated construction and manufacturing expertise over the past three decades, along with its economic muscle as the world’s second-largest economy. But companies need to move beyond narrow business concerns for the initiative to succeed.

“Can you help a neighbor out of poverty? Idealism is what we have as a nation, as a country,” he said. “One Belt, One Road, why are we doing what we did? For cheap labor? Or, what employment we can bring to the host countries. Do that, and you are going to be successful and respected.”