Co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma expressed surprise and admiration for Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s extensive knowledge on technology during a one-hour meeting with him on Monday (Jun 18).
Ma, who is in Kuala Kumpur to grace the opening of the Malaysia’s first Alibaba office in Bangsar South, told Bernama that the two shared a lot of ideas and discussed ways to alleviate poverty in the nation while supporting more young adults and small businesses.
At the ceremony, the Chinese billionaire also said he was inspired to establish his company after reading about the successful launch of Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) – a special economic zone and high-technology business district – by Dr Mahathir in 1997.
“I was ecstatic on reading the news on MSC. It crossed my mind then if Malaysia could do it, why not me?” he said.
“This was my dream 20 years ago, and when I met with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad this morning, I thanked him for inspiring me.”
Ma had visited Kuala Lumpur before in 2017 to launch the world’s first Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ). It was designed to promote the growth of e-commerce by providing a platform for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to conduct their businesses.
He was reportedly said to have wanted to meet Dr Mahathir earlier in June but the latter’s intention to focus on assembling his new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government caused the proposed meeting to be postponed, according to media reports.
The former Barisan Nasional government had appointed Ma as its digital economy advisor.
The meeting followed the PH government’s pledge to review Beijing-backed projects initiated by the previous administration as it engages the Japanese for economic cooperation.
Dr Mahathir was reported to have said that the DFTZ project would carry on.