Alibaba founder Jack Ma has attacked critics of globalisation at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos saying “globalisation cannot be stopped”.
Ma — who’s worth some $47.2bn — warned that if countries try to stand in the way of globalisation it could result in war.
No one can stop globalisation, no one can stop trade. If trade stops, the world stops. Trade is the way to dissolve the war, not cause the war.
Whether you worry about it the world will be hugely changed in the next 30 years. If there will be a war then it should be a war against disease, environmental pollution and poverty, rather than against ourselves.
Ma was speaking on a panel about the future of ecommerce alongside Roberto Azevêdo, director-general of the World Trade Organization, and Mercedes Aráoz, the prime minister of Peru.
Ma’s comments appear to be a thinly veiled criticism of US president Donald Trump’s America First policy.
Trump — who is arriving in Davos this evening and is set make a keynote address tomorrow — wants to dramatically reduce the US trade deficit in order to grow the US economy.
Trump this week revealed an aggressive new trade tariff on solar equipment and washing machines from China.
Meanwhile, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross played down the significance of trade wars. Speaking in Davos he said:
There have always been trade wars. The difference now is US troops are now coming to the ramparts.
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Ma however argued people should lean into globalisation and improve it, calling it a “growing pain”.
To dissolve problems we need to embrace globalisation and it is our responsibility and opportunity to improve it. Don’t use trade as the weapon, use trade as the solution to solve the problems. It is so easy to launch a trade war but it is so difficult to stop a trade war and I’m scared and concerned.
Ma also warned artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will mean many jobs are lost and others will need to be created elsewhere.
The AI and robots are going to kill a lot of jobs because in the future it’ll be done by machines. The first technology revolution caused the First World War and the second technology revolution caused the Second World War — and now we have the third.