US-China trade war could last 20 years: Jack Ma

New Delhi: Congress delegation led by party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Ahmed Patel and Vivek Tankha; arrive to meet the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) over Rafale issue, in New Delhi on Sept 19, 2018. (Photo: IANS)

Tech tycoon Jack Ma has told investors to hunker down for a drawn out trade war between the US and China that can last for upto 20 years.

“It’s going to last long, it’s going to be a mess,” Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, said on Tuesday at an annual conference for Alibaba investors.

Just hours after the Trump administration slapped a new round of tariffs on Chinese goods worth $200 billion, Ma said the US-China trade war will last not for 20 months or 20 days, but “maybe 20 years”.

That would mean no easing of tensions between the world’s top two economies for many years after President Donald Trump has left office, even if he serves a second term, the CNN reported.

While the tech billionaire dismissed speculation that geopolitical headwinds played a part in the surprise announcement of his retirement last week, he acknowledged that the ongoing spat with China’s largest trade partner is hurting Alibaba’s business.

Shares in Alibaba closed 3.5 per cent lower on Monday. The company’s stock is down 25 per cent from its all-time high in June.

Ma said a lot of businesses in China and the US will be in trouble in the short term, and eventually, Chinese firms will be forced to turn to other countries, CNN reported.

Ma said the trade war is “against China” but also criticised his country’s policies, urging leaders to view the pain inflicted by Trump’s tariffs as an opportunity to “upgrade”. “China must open the market,” he added.

Ma reassured investors that the $410 billion company he helped build is in safe hands. He announced last week that he will step down from Alibaba in a year’s time, handing over the reins to CEO Daniel Zhang.

“I’m 100% sure Daniel will do a better job than I do,” Ma said. The 54-year-old former teacher repeated his desire to pursue a new career, likely in the field of education.

“I’m not sad at all. I think I’m still young,” he said. “In Alibaba I’m old, but in my career I’m still young.”

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