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E-commerce key to China Web growth

Dotcom guru Jack Ma speaks to CNN

Jack Ma with Kristie: "I am China's Chief Education Officer for the Internet," he says.





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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- China's best-known Internet guru is Jack Ma, the founder of, an e-commerce auction site that pitches made-in-China goods to a global market.

Earlier this year, Yahoo paid $1 billion and handed over its China unit to Jack for a 40 percent stake in his company, turning Jack into a dotcom millionaire a few times over -- and Alibaba into the biggest Internet operation in China.

The deal was met with a collective intake of breath from the business world.

Such confidence in a Chinese Internet entrepreneur was unprecedented, leading to Jack being hailed China's "Internet King."

Here, he talks to Spark host Kristie Lu Stout about how he feels about bearing that title.

Ma: I never think about myself as an "Internet King." I consider myself a teacher (or) CEO, chief education officer of the China Internet market. I have studied the Internet in China since 1995. I set up the first Internet company in China so today I can call myself China's chief education officer for the Internet. Although I know nothing about computers (or) about the Internet, but I know this is something that will change China, change the world.

Lu Stout: Yahoo has put its fate in your hands. Do you think a Chinese company can run a Web site in China better than a western company?

Ma: You have to create value for local customers. The U.S. multinational companies, they come to China, they want to buy the China market, they don't want to create value, they don't want to spend a long time understanding little by little to build up their business. We are a Chinese company but we know what is happening outside China.

Lu Stout: You want to make the customer happy, as you said. You want to create some sort of value for the Chinese customer. What is that?

Ma: China Internet growth is interesting because of (the popularity of) SMS and because of online gaming. I don't believe SMS will save the Chinese economy, I don't believe online gaming will change the China economy, but e-commerce, I believe will. E-commerce for the small to medium sized companies, e-commerce for Chinese companies to export overseas, e-commerce (for) helping foreign companies come to China -- that will be the future, that will be the chance to change the economy and change the fate of the economy. So I think this is the value I want to create for the small to medium sized companies in China, in the world, to give them more opportunities.

Lu Stout: Another trend that we have been seeing in China, that is widely reported, of course, is about Internet censorship. Recently Yahoo gave information to the government that led to the detention of a Chinese journalist. If you had been running Yahoo China at time, would you have done the same thing?

Ma: Yes, I would

Lu Stout: Why?

Ma: I think that wherever you do business you have to follow the local rules and laws. Either you can change the law -- if you cannot change the law, follow the law. So, it's the law in China, you have to follow it. Where ever you do business these are the basic principles. As a company, you have to make profits, to make profits you have to follow the local laws, and for Alibaba, to deal with Yahoo China. For the past six years I have never been criticized or censored by the government because we focus not on the politics, not on the news -- we focus on the economy, on e-commerce. This is something that we have strong support from the government, any government in the world, they want us to help grow their business.

Lu Stout: But now you are not only running Alibaba but Yahoo China, which is known as a media company, a communications company. An action like that -- it's basically saying sacrificing press freedom and the freedom to exchange information in China is the price to pay to be in business in China, I guess.

Ma: Well, I think when we run Yahoo China I don't want to make this thing a media thing. Leave the media for (Chinese Internet companies) Sina and Sohu to do it. We just concentrate on e-commerce. I don't think it's a sacrifice. For us we just do something which we are strong at, do something which is proper into China and leave the sensitive things to the other people.

-- The Spark show on China airs on CNN International on Sunday, Oct. 23 in Europe at 2030 CET, and in Asia at 2030 HKT

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