Chinese language billionaire Jack Ma: 'I fear about Europe' and its obsession with tech regulation

Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma makes speech during ‘Back to the Classroom’ event as part of the Jack Ma Rural Teacher Award Ceremony on January 13, 2019 in Sanya, Hainan Province of China.

VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images

PARIS — Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba, is worried about Europe.

Why? Because Europe is worried about technology, he says, and is tightening regulations that restrict companies’ ability to innovate.

“Everything they do is full with rules and laws,” he told attendees at the Viva Technology conference in Paris Thursday. “And everything they think about, they start to worry. When they worry, they make rules and laws.”

He said that, when faced with problems, Chinese entrepreneurs “start to solve the problems, then think about rules and laws.”

“I worry about Europe,” Ma added. “I worry about the worries of Europe. Africa does not worry. Asia does not worry. What are they worried about?”

Ma suggested that this was the reason why Europe has been something of a laggard with respect to tech. The region has not produced massive tech firms in the same way that the U.S. and China has, and is largely seen as falling behind the world’s two largest economies on that front.

Europe has been viewed as leading the way when it comes to regulating large tech companies though. The European Union for instance last year introduced stringent new data laws aimed at ensuring consumers’ right to privacy. The EU executive meanwhile recently published guidelines aimed at maintaining ethics in artificial intelligence (AI).

Ma pushed back against worries over AI Thursday. The Alibaba executive chairman said the firm uses artificial intelligence to “arrest and catch a lot thieves.” For example, he referred to the company’s payments platform Alipay, explaining it uses machine learning to detect “cheating” bad actors.

“If you think the technology revolution is a problem, I’m sorry to say a problem just started,” he added. “If you think it’s an opportunity, the opportunity just started. The only thing is your mentality. If the mentality is now a worry, you’ll worry all the time.”

China is home to a group of three large technology firms often referred to as the BAT — Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. It’s also seen swelling venture capital investment in the tech sector, with Ant Financial raising a record $14 billion funding round from investors last year.

The country has faced increased trade pressure from the United States however, and that’s also crossed over into its tech scene. President Donald Trump recently declared a statement of emergency over the threat to U.S. tech companies.

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