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Jack Ma Insists Alibaba Doesn't Want to Take on Amazon and eBay in U.S.

Hawk your goods in China!

Asa Mathat
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Alibaba’s Jack Ma to Amazon and eBay: We come in peace.

It would make for a great storyline, but Alibaba founder Ma insisted his Chinese e-commerce goliath has no interest in competing with American e-commerce giants on their own turf. Instead, Ma was in New York on Tuesday to talk up his company’s pitch to help American small businesses sell to shoppers in China, not America.

“’What’s your plan in America? When are you coming to invade America?’” Ma said he is often asked, during his talk hosted by the Economic Club of New York at the Waldorf Astoria on Tuesday afternoon. That is not the plan, Ma said. “The great opportunity” for American small businesses, according to Ma, is selling to China’s growing middle class, which he estimated will reach half a billion people in the next decade.

Ma has not strayed from this script since his company went public in a historic offering last year. But despite these proclamations, investors and bankers in the U.S. continue to talk up the possibility of an Alibaba acquisition of eBay, which is spinning off its payments unit PayPal in the next few months. Even if the interest is there, however, people inside and outside of Alibaba believe the Chinese company would run into regulatory challenges getting such a deal approved by the U.S. government.

Ma is an expert orator, and managed to walk a fine line in his talk. While it’s true that Amazon and eBay are best known in the U.S. for connecting American shoppers with America sellers, both companies do hope to help American businesses sell abroad, just like Alibaba does. So in that way, they are competitors.

Both American companies have also attempted to compete in China, where Alibaba defeated eBay years ago and Amazon has not fared a whole lot better. Alibaba also owns a small American online marketplace called 11 Main, which launched last year, but has not yet made much noise.

And just to be clear: “We did not come here to compete,” Ma said.

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