The growth opportunity of China is poised to rebalance from exports to imports as a population of middle-class consumers continues to explode—leading to a vast opportunity for U.S. small businesses, according to Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of VSA client Alibaba.
In Chicago to address a gathering of executives and small-business leaders on Wednesday, Ma underscored his belief that new channels of commerce are available via e-commerce to U.S. entrepreneurs who want to sell into Chinese markets. His message in the town-hall event Wednesday echoed a presentation to the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday, at which a VSA-produced brand video describing Alibaba was screened for the 1,000-person audience.
Along with the video, VSA is currently creating Alibaba’s online annual report, its first since its public stock offering in September made Alibaba shares the largest global IPO in history. VSA’s work is designed to help investors and the public understand the company, its global role and its future potential.
“Globalization used to belong only to large companies,” Ma told the Chicago meeting, which was co-sponsored by Alibaba and American Express, and moderated by American Express Chairman and CEO Ken Chenault. “Today, cross-border trade for small business is so easy…We can help American small businesses sell into China.” Alibaba is the world’s largest online and mobile commerce marketplace, connecting merchants and consumers through multiple online destinations and related services. On Tuesday in New York, Ma said his goal was to increase Alibaba’s percentage of revenue coming from outside China to 40 percent, up from 2 percent today. He added that he expects China to become the world’s largest import economy in the next 20 years.
China’s population of 1.3 billion now includes a middle class of 300 million, a sub-population already larger than the entire United States, and a group that’s projected to double by 2022. Ma describes this emerging middle class as consumers who aspire to American products, and who can be accessed easily through Alibaba’s extensive system of online stores, transaction and payment systems, logistics and shipping.