Published:  12:00 AM, 12 January 2017

Economists doubt about Ma's million jobs pledge

Jack Ma (R) of Alibaba Group said he would create a million US jobs at a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Donald Trump made headlines with the Chinese entrepreneur's attention-grabbing pledge to create one million US jobs, but analysts say the move is more about good PR than substance. The splashy promise at Trump Tower was a strategic decision by Ma to win goodwill from the next US president and hedge against political risks to Alibaba's vast online shopping business over counterfeits, independent e-commerce analyst Li Chengdong told AFP. 

"We don't have to take the one million job promise too seriously," Li said. In the short term, economists are sceptical. Such a figure would represent almost one percent of all jobs in the United States, making the firm one of the country's largest private employers, said Christopher Balding, professor at Peking University's HSBC Business School. China's largest online shopping portal has been on the defensive since the office of the US Trade Representative last month put its massive electronic sales platform Taobao on its annual blacklist, saying it was not doing enough to curb sales of fake and pirated goods.

Although inclusion on the blacklist carries no penalties in itself, it dealt a blow to Alibaba's efforts to improve its image and boost international sales. "This (pledge) is more made to relieve its PR pressure, so Alibaba won't become a target of attack after Trump takes office," Li added. "As Alibaba's counterfeits problem is indeed quite serious, it is an easy target."

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