Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma says he sees the South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong newspaper his e-commerce company acquired earlier this month, as a “connector” that can help dispel misunderstandings between the East and West.
“A lot of foreigners have few opportunities to visit China, and a lot of Chinese people do not have the chance to go to Europe or to the West,” Ma said in a two-hour interview published today in the SCMP. “This is an immediate opportunity for us to bridge this gap as a responsible media outlet. What apublication can do is to help people get a clearer picture without jumping into any rash conclusion,” Ma said, adding that the SCMP can “report on China in a broader and deeper way.”
Hangzhou, China-based Alibaba Group’s purchase of the English-language SCMP prompted speculation that under the company’s influence the paper’s China coverage would become slanted to please Chinese leaders in Beijing. While Alibaba officials insisted SCMP journalists would have complete editorial independence, Ma’s SCMP interview is the first time he has elaborated on his vision for the media outlet.
“What Alibaba wants to do is to make it a global media outlet through our technology and resources,” Ma explained. “Asia is changing and China is changing. The SCMP will have great opportunities. With its access to Alibaba’s resources, data and all the relationships in our ecosystem, the SCMP can report on Asia and China more accurately compared with other media that have no such access.”
The globetrotting Ma added that “the more I come to know about outside world’s perception of China, the more I feel there are all sorts of misunderstanding and to a certain extent, people do not get the full picture from the media.”
“Sometimes people look at things purely from a Western or an Eastern perspective–that is one-sided. What the SCMP can do is to understand the big ‘why’ behind a story and its cultural context. The Western culture is scientific and tends to see things in black and white. The Eastern approach is like tai chi–everything is in transition. The SCMP could help to explain this Eastern mentality to our readers better. They may not agree with the other side, but at least they can understand where the other side comes from.”
“If the SCMP can play the role of a connector between the West and the East, I have confidence in the paper’s future success,” he said.
Ma also talked about China’s economic future—the country faces a difficult three to five years but the slowdown ishealthy for its long-term development, he said—and Alibaba’s willingness to commit resources tospeed the newspaper’s transition to digital distribution. To read the interview in full, click here.