A combination of photos of Donald Trump and Jack Ma Photo source: Xinhua
A meeting between Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma and US President-elect Donald Trump on Monday signals that Trump, whose tough stance on China has cast dark clouds over China-US trade relations, left a door open for pragmatic cooperation with Chinese companies, Chinese experts said.
The Chinese billionaire reportedly held a meeting with Trump in New York on Monday to discuss how the Chinese e-commerce giant could create jobs by allowing US businesses to sell products in the Chinese market.
This was the first meeting of the US president-elect with a high profile businessman from China, following a barrage of tough rhetoric and actions, including threats to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods and selection of China critics for trade positions.
Though details of the meeting as to what was specifically discussed remain sketchy, it is a positive signal for China-US trade relations under Trump, following the recent turbulence, according to Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
"This is a sign that Trump is leaving the door open for pragmatic cooperation with Chinese firms, which he thinks could help the US economy and create jobs," Bai told the Global Times.
Bai said Trump's tough rhetoric on China was meant for voters and might have been aimed at gaining some leverage in future trade negotiations with China, but "he is a businessman and if he sees an opportunity that could benefit the US economy, he would take it."
And for Alibaba, as it looks to expand its business in the US, Monday's meeting was a positive step for the company to "pave the way" for its business plans under a Trump administration, according to Mei Xinyu, an associate researcher with the Ministry of Commerce.
"Alibaba is based in China, but has a worldwide platform; the company has to handle its relations with the US government well, because it's a very important market for the Chinese tech firm," Mei told the Global Times on Monday.
It is important that Alibaba strikes a balance between expanding overseas and strengthening its base in China, Mei noted.
Bai said the meeting also offers a pattern that other Chinese companies can follow in expanding to the US under Trump. "They have to stress how many jobs you can create in the US in talking with Trump," he said.
Ma might have picked up some tips from Masayoshi Son of Japan's Softbank Group, a major stakeholder of Alibaba, in dealing with Trump, according to Bai. Son met with Trump in early December last year and announced a $50 billion investment in the US that aims to create 50,000 jobs.