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Innovation & Talent

Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Malaysia PM Mahathir Mohamad talk tech, jobs and future

(June 18): Alibaba Group’s efforts to undertake an intensive transfer of technology and skills to Malaysia are aligned with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s hopes for the Southeast Asia economy to transit into high-income status quickly, the Chinese conglomerate’s co-founder Jack Ma said on Monday.

Ma was speaking to the media after a meeting with Mahathir in Kuala Lumpur on June 18 – the first by a Chinese entrepreneur since the country’s landmark election on May 9 in which the veteran politician had been critical about investments from the mainland that had not brought jobs to the country.

Mahathir won the election decisively and is back in power for a second tenure as prime minister. The Alibaba executive chairman said the 92-year-old leader expressed hopes that the company would employ more Malaysians in high-technology jobs.

“He [Mahathir] does not want Malaysia to be a low-end manufacturing [base] … like an outsourced assembly line,” Ma said after the meeting at Mahathir’s office in Putrajaya.

“He wants to have research centres, creative centres and this is what we believe,” Ma said.
In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Mahathir said Ma had told him the Chinese company was eager to help Malaysia with efforts to introduce cutting edge technology to its schools and help local businesses in areas such as cloud computing.

Alibaba Group, the owner of the South China Morning Post, operates a digital free trade hub in Kuala Lumpur – a bricks-and-mortar warehouse backed by artificial intelligence that coordinates e-commerce in Southeast Asia.

Ma, in Kuala Lumpur for the opening of Alibaba’s new country office in Malaysia, its first in Southeast Asia, said his visit helped him take the pulse of the country and its new leaders.

Ma said ties between Chinese companies and key markets like Malaysia were “like a marriage” where both sides needed to constantly work at keeping a good relationship.

Chinese companies must create value and jobs and respect local practices, while countries must realise that ultimately China represents one of the world’s largest consumer markets, Ma said.

According to Oh Ei Sun, a prominent observer of China-Malaysia ties, comments by Mahathir and Ma showed the newly sworn-in Malaysian government would continue to warmly welcome investments that are of the “jobs-creating and skills-transferring variety”.


Source: The Edge Markets