Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s executive chairman Jack Ma said the company’s ambitions to link up with Hollywood remain strong and also urged people to give President-Elect Donald Trump “some time” because “he’s listening.”
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday, the Chinese billionaire said Alibaba had a debate five years ago about what Chinese people want. “Happiness and health,” he said. “We believe the movie industry brings happiness. Today, no one is happy. Rich people aren’t happy. Poor people aren’t happy. At least when I watch a movie I’m happy.”
Ma told the New York Times’ Andrew R Sorkin that Alibaba was looking to partner with people in Hollywood as the movie industry fell in line with the company’s strategy to help solve societal problems. “We believe the bigger social problems you solve, the better,” he said. “Otherwise we don’t do it.”
Ma quipped that he’d been inspired by the fact that in Hollywood films, American heroes “never die” whereas in Chinese films, the heroes die. “In my movie I want to make the hero live.”
He pointed to his favorite film – Forrest Gump – as an inspiration for his attraction to Hollywood as it gave him a lesson for his business: to never give up. “Nobody makes money out of catching whales, people make money out of catching shrimp,” he said, quoting the film.
“That’s why we serve small businesses,” said Ma.
Alibaba has been gradually tapping into the entertainment sector over the last few years. In October, Alibaba made its most significant move into the business by taking a minority equity stake in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, seeing the e-tailer’s production arm team with Amblin to co-produce and finance films for global and Chinese audiences. Prior to that, Alibaba Pictures had invested in tentpoles such as Paramount/Skydance’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation as well as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows and Star Trek Beyond.
In December, the chief exec of Alibaba Digital Media & Entertainment Group said in an internal email that it would invest more than RMB50B ($7.2B) into content over the next three years, according to a report in Reuters.
On Trump, Ma spoke of his “productive” meeting with the incoming President last week at Trump Tower in New York, and said Trump was “open-minded.”
“He listened when I talked,” said Ma. “I’m very happy about the results.”
At the center of their discussion, the two men spoke about small business, agriculture and trade between China and the U.S., with a specific focus on how they could work together to create 1 million new jobs in small businesses over the next five years.
He criticized America for wasting more than $14 trillion in fighting wars over the last 30 years instead of investing infrastructure on its home turf, a move which he suggested has left many citizens in Middle America feeling disenfranchised.
“What if money spent on the Middle East was spent on the Midwest,” said Ma. “It is not that other companies steal jobs from you [the U.S.], it’s because you aren’t spending money and redistributing [money] on your own country.”
Ma also praised globalization but said much needed to be done to improve it. He told the forum that he wants to see “inclusive globalization” with six million small business doing business across the world in the next 30 years and said even China needed to “be more open and more confident.”
Ma indicated that he felt this was a problem that Trump was willing to solve. “We should give Trump some time,” he said. “He’s listening.”