China’s burgeoning middle class is best served by cross-border e-commerce and the country’s rising entrepreneurs, who will help build a more globalized economy over the next several decades, Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma said on Thursday.
Speaking at the World Internet Conference in the eastern Chinese city of Wuzhen, Ma said China’s domestic resources alone can’t meet the growing demands of the country’s middle class, which is now at least as large as the entire U.S. population of 319 million.
Through international e-commerce, “We want to bring in the world’s good-quality products (into China) to satisfy the needs of this middle-class population,” Ma said. “Many big brands from Italy and France have already entered the Chinese market but for small business in those countries that lack capital and information technology know-how, now is the opportunity,” said Ma, whose company runs international Internet trading platforms such as Tmall.com that helps overseas retailers sell into China. Shoppers and merchants from some 217 countries and regions participated in Alibaba Group’s recent 11.11 Shopping Festival, during which $9.3 billion worth of goods were sold in 24 hours.
Ma, a board member of The Nature Conservancy, stressed that his homeland’s environment and natural resources are being overtaxed as the country transforms into a nation of consumers. “China’s air, environment and water resources are insufficient to serve the needs of China’s 300-400 million middle-class population,” Ma said.
The emergence of a more open global economy in which free international trade can flourish will help balance the load, he said. “The world is quickly becoming one village,” Ma told the gathering of Internet insiders, executives and journalists at the conference. “Today the Internet has given us the opportunity to build a truly market-driven economy and through entrepreneurs we can build a trade-driven society.”
This transition will not happen overnight and requires the collaboration of many kinds of businesses, he said. “No company has the ability to establish a logistics company to ship goods all over the world, no company has the ability to establish a unified payment standard and no company can purchase goods from all over the world to sell to consumers,” Ma said. “This is what the Internet can do and it will be a driving and positive force in the global economy in the future.”
“In the next 20 to 30 years,” Ma said, “the Internet will change the landscape of global trading.”