Jack Ma warns that trade war will drag on for decades

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. chairman Jack Ma has sent out a grave warning regarding the trade war between the U.S. and China. Getty Images file

The trade war between USA and China could last 20 years and have a bigger impact than most people think, Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, the largest e-commerce site in China, said.

The Alibaba (BABA) chief grabbed attention at the start of a year ago when he made the ambitious jobs pledge following a meeting with Donald Trump, who was president elect at the time.

But Ma told Xinhua that his pledge had been made on the basis of continued cooperation and trade growth between the USA and China, and would now be hard to fulfill.

He said new trade rules are desperately needed over the long-term.

Mr Ma's bold pledge following his January 2017 meeting at Trump Tower was greeted with scepticism by analysts at the time, who said the move was more about good public relations than substance.

As Alibaba grows into new markets, there will always be some sort of new burden they will have to accept. Ma made a call to postpone expansion into the United States, but itis hard to see Alibaba not expanding into the U.S. market at some point in the future.

In April Ma doubled down on his pledge, claiming 10 million jobs could be created "if China and the United States maintain good trade relations".

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But the trade dispute between the world´s top two economies has swiftly escalated since Trump took office, with a series of tit-for-tat tariffs brought on billions of dollars´ worth of goods by both countries.

Ma said a lot of businesses in China and the USA will be in trouble in the short term, and eventually, Chinese firms will be forced to turn to other countries, CNN reported.

Ma said trade tensions would likely impact Chinese and foreign companies immediately and negatively. He said that trade is not a weapon and shouldn't be used for wars. "Trade should be the propeller of peace".

He announced last week that he will step down within a year and hand the company reins to chief executive Daniel Zhang.

Ma was profiled by Bloomberg earlier this month, and said he wanted to follow the playbook of the billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates after retirement.

"I'm just 54, and I still have at least 16 years to do something new", Mr Ma told Xinhua. When commenting about his coming retirement, he said it's not a "sudden decision" and he has been prepared for it for more than 10 years.

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