Alibaba Vice Chair: A U.S.-China Trade War Wouldn’t Be Terrible for Us

While a U.S.-China trade war “wouldn’t be good for anyone,” according to Alibaba’s executive vice chairman and co-founder, it wouldn’t be particularly painful for Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.  (BABA) , either.

“You could view Alibaba as a very large platform for producers from all around the world to access Chinese consumers,” said Joseph Tsai on Alibaba’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings call Friday, May 4, in response to a question from an analyst. Tsai noted that Alibaba currently has 550 million annual active shoppers in China.

“Now, the trade war right now is really just between the United States and China, so it’s really limited to that trade flow,” Tsai said. “So when Chinese consumers look abroad to buy things from overseas, there could be replacements.”

Alibaba executive vice chairman and co-founderJoseph Tsai Alibaba executive vice chairman and co-founder Joseph Tsai

As an example, Tsai said that instead of importing fruit from the U.S. China could import fruit and other food items from Southeast Asian countries.

“We feel we’ve already publicly communicated … that the trade actually will hurt small businesses in the United States. But our Chinese consumers are going to find alternative ways to bring imports into the country through our platform,” Tsai emphasized.

In the past, Alibaba has promoted the idea of creating as many as a million jobs in the U.S. by helping U.S. businesses sell their goods in China on Alibaba’s platform. To date, Alibaba has not embarked on any substantial plans to enter the U.S. e-commerce market, which is heavily dominated by Action Alerts PLUS holding Inc.  (AMZN) , but the two are starting to compete in other markets.

For its just-announced quarter, Alibaba’s revenue grew 61% year over year and the company beat expectations on both the top and bottom lines. But Alibaba’s stock moved back and forth between losses and gains following the report, possibly due to concerns about the company’s rising spending as it seeks to expand abroad and get further into brick-and-mortar retail.

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