Alibaba’s Jack Ma says nations need own tech to sidestep US grip


TOKYO Alibaba Group Holding Ltd co-founder Jack Ma (picture) argues that nations from Japan to China need to develop their own semiconductor technology to get around America’s grip on the global chip market.

Alibaba’s billionaire executive chairman, explaining the e-commerce titan’s growing interest in chips including this month’s acquisition of local design-house Hangzhou C-Sky Microsystems Co, said he’s motivated in part by a desire to make chips “inclusive”: Cheap, efficient and available to all. He said his company has invested in five semiconductor firms in the past four years.

“America was the early mover and China, we need a lot of things, (but) 100% of the market for chips is controlled by Americans,” he told students and entrepreneurs at Tokyo’s Waseda University. “And suddenly if they stop selling — what that means, you understand. And that’s why China, Japan and any country, you need core technologies.”

Ma’s comments dovetail with the views of Chinese business chieftains and politicos alike. Ma joins industry peers such as Tencent Holdings Ltd founder Pony Ma in espousing a world-class domestic chip industry as tensions simmer with the US, the global leader in cutting-edge semiconductor technology.

The US blacklisting of ZTE Corp for seven years has ironically galvanised China’s existing plan to shell out some US$150 billion (RM587.09 billion) over 10 years to achieve a leading position in chip design and manufacturing — a vision that US executives and officials have repeatedly warned could harm American interests.

“We’re entering a world where people don’t trust each other. That’s why we have trade wars and so many problems,” Ma said. “But don’t give up. Trust isn’t just gained, it’s about building. And we can build.”