By Wang Xiaozhu, Silvi Media
Having a meeting with Jack Ma is becoming a must-do job for many state/government leaders, as the co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group has held bilateral meetings with up to 40 incumbent top political leaders from foreign countries since 2014.
Our study, based on open media reports, shows Ma has got increasingly busy with such arrangements in 2017 and 2018, suggesting him playing a rising role in China’s interaction with foreign countries.
The Chinese business magnate is now a new face of China’s diplomacy, thus his meetings with foreign leaders are welcomed by the leadership in Beijing.
Our study hasn’t included Ma’s meetings with former US president Bill Clinton and former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, both of whom had stepped down when their meetings with Ma were held.
Nor did it include Ma’s meetings with heads of major international organisations, except Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General.
Who has met with Jack Ma bilaterally?
Many of these meetings happened in eastern China’s city of Hangzhou, where Alibaba, the world’s largest e-commerce platform, is based.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was the latest state-level visitor, as the 93-year-old had Alibaba’s sprawling Xixi Park campus as the first stop on his keenly watched five-day visit to China began on Aug 18.
Mahathir told Ma that Malaysia was keen on adopting its various hi-tech platforms to bolster economic growth.
It was their second meeting within three months. Ma visited Mahathir in Kuala Lumpur in May, shortly after the latter took the office again.
Before Mahathir, Ma had also greeted in Hangzhou top leaders from Canada, Australia, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc.
Ma has also managed to meet with all current leaders, and their most recent predecessor, of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, including the US’s Donald Trump and Barack Obama, Theresa May and David Cameron of Britain, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Francois Hollande, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.
Ma has also met with leaders of other major economies including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, etc.
Ma’s itinerary has also taken him to all inhabited continents of the world, meeting leaders from countries of Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, continental Europe, and the Middle East.
He has also paid visits to some very controversial state leaders, including President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as then South Korean President Park Geun-hye, now in jail.
What did they discuss?
Our study finds that Ma and his state-level hosts/guests would normally hold discussions on topics included investment, e-commerce and trade, tech innovation, leadership, empowering start-ups and SMEs, youth development, environmental protection and climate change, etc.
Some of these meetings have brought very concrete fruits, while many others were mainly courtesy calls, during which attendants would discuss how to boost trade using Taobao or Tmall, both online retail platforms under Alibaba.
When meeting with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Johannesburg in early Aug in 2018, Ma announced to launch the Africa Netrepreneur Prize. Worth $10 million, the prize is meant to support exemplary young Internet leaders on the continent.
In Brussels in July, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Ma discussed the Electronic World Trade Platform initiative which offers small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) the infrastructure to conduct commerce with services encompassing ecommerce, logistics, cloud computing, mobile payment and talent training.
Ma announced, when meeting King Abdullah II of Jordan in May, a first stage grant of $3 million to support the mission of the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development and its work in education in Jordan, with a particular focus on Edraak, the free online platform for Arabic open educational resources and the Queen Rania Teacher Academy.
In July 2017, local media said nature conservancies in Africa were “set to get a major boost in their operations” following the launch of a 10-year conservation program in Africa by the Paradise Foundation, which is co-chaired by Ma.
This was a major fruit after Ma’s meeting with President of Rwanda Paul Kagame in the country’s capital of Kigali in that month. They met again in Davos, Switzerland, again in Jan this year.
Meeting Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in Hangzhou in Apr 2017, Ma revealed the Alibaba’s growing appetite for seafood – and especially salmon – from the Scandinavian country. Exports of the Nordic country’s salmon to China soared rapidly following that meeting.
Ma has met with Solberg for four times for total.
In Jan 2017, Ma pledged to create 1 million US jobs when meeting then President-elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower in New York, according to media report.
Why is Jack Ma loved by state leaders?
Born on Sep 10, 1964, Ma is loved by foreign state leaders, not just for his fortune, but for more.
His success story, from an ordinary English teacher in Hangzhou to become one of the richest self-made tycoon in Asia, has inspired many young people in the world.
In ASEAN countries for examples, where entrepreneurship is on fast rise, huge numbers of young people have Ma as their role model.
Ma’s business model, which is based on technological innovation, is more environmentally friendly compared to other industries.
Also, crucially, Ma would usually help foreign countries boost employment by creating large numbers of jobs through investment, merger & acquisition, trade, and opening local branches.
As China interacts more with other countries, our study suggests Ma is set to have far more meetings with foreign leaders in the future.
Please take good care, Mr Ma!
Below is our statistics of foreign state leaders Ma has met since 2014: