Jack Ma and Donald Trump pose after their meeting at Trump Tower in January. Ma has shown a shrewd sense of how he can help China's leaders. Photo: AFP/Timothy A Clary

The founder of Alibaba, the world’s leader in e-commerce, in terms of number of active users, has taken it upon himself to spearhead the development of a new platform for global trade. As the Financial Times writes this week, Ma “works the stage like a seasoned diplomat” and “has proposed ideas that sound more like the projects of a politician than a business leader.”

One of those projects is a trading platform unveiled last year called “e-WTO”, which he hopes will serve the needs of small- and medium-sized businesses hoping to tap the global market. The first electronic world trade platform (eWTP) established outside of China was launched in Malaysia this year, and there is talk that Russia will be the next hub.

But the US is clearly on Ma’s mind, and he has tried to shore up momentum for extending his vision to the US with a plan that promises to create 1 million US jobs.

Though there are challenges to his plan to transform global trade, not the least from overseas competitor Amazon, Alibaba still faces stiff competition at home. Rivals Baidu and Tencent are putting up a fight in areas such as mobile payments, where Tencent has 37% share to AliPay’s 51%, as well as ride-hailing apps, food delivery, bike sharing and media.

Though he is not a head of state, in his quest to make Alibaba sales bigger than the GDP of the world’s fifth-largest economy, he certainly aims to put as much on his plate as one.