Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba Group Holding, knows what Americans love more than their fear of China — money.
And he knows that if he can help Americans make money from selling their goods to China as much as the Chinese are making money selling their goods to the U.S., it may get some folks here to think twice before demonizing China. And if Alibaba can also make money through greater business engagement with China — so much the better.
This week, Ma will visit the U.S. to pitch China’s middle-class as a growth opportunity for American business.
Ma will land in New York City on Monday to attend a dinner with leaders of select global brands, Alibaba said. The next day he will head to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for lunch with members of the Economic Club of New York.
On Wednesday, Ma will travel to Chicago to attend a town-hall style meeting in with 300 business owners, such as American Express Chief Executive Officer Ken Chenault, according to Alibaba. He’ll also meet with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Alibaba is China’s largest e-commerce site. But with China’s economy expected to grow at its slowest pace since 1990, Ma is looking beyond China for revenue. If he can position Alibaba as a cross-border e-commerce solution, enabling China’s 557 million Internet users to buy things from anywhere in the world, his company will become even more of an international force to be reckoned with.
Ma wants to increase the amount of revenue the company receives from outside China to 50% from the current 4%. Cross-border sales into China and sales through Alibaba platforms to consumers outside China would constitute international revenue. Costco Wholesale and Macy’s already reach Chinese shoppers through Alibaba.
“Ma’s push coincides with new policies that make it cheaper for Chinese residents to import overseas goods and successful trial programs on Alibaba’s TMall.com selling cherries and apples from Washington state, seafood from Alaska and ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s and Breyers,” said Bloomberg.
“Considering the number of people on TMall each day, their promotions give us a level of publicity we could never afford to pay for,” Alexa Tonkovich, international program director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, told Bloomberg. “We see online commerce in China as having excellent potential for Alaskan seafood.”
Cross-border purchases by China’s Web shoppers grew from less than $2 billion in 2010 to more than $20 billion in 2014, with the U.S. the destination of choice for clothing and personal care and baby products, according to EMarketer. It predicts China’s e-commerce market, which surpassed the U.S. as the world’s biggest in 2013, will be twice its current size in five years.
Ma is also pursuing new business angles closer to home. Chinese news website Caixin Online reported Monday that MYbank, the Internet bank of Alibaba’s affiliated financial arm Ant Financial, cleared its last regulatory hurdle on May 27. The online bank will reportedly focus on the financial needs of very small businesses.