Though China's raging trade war with the US is "the most stupid thing," it's an opportunity for a "lot of consumers," Jack Ma, chief of Alibaba Group, Asia's most valued corporate house, has said.
Addressing the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, which Chinese President Xi Jinping declared open on Monday, Ma said the switch to an import model would be a huge pain for a lot of domestic businesses.
The e-tail tycoon, who had previously announced his intention to retire in a year's time to focus attention on philanthropy, said China's plans to reinvent itself as an importing nation would trigger resistance from vested interests.
"For my understanding, it's the greatest challenge for China. It's a great opportunity for the world," he said.
The shift will "fundamentally change the infrastructure ... and (the) ecosystem. It's going to be a huge pain to a lot of businesses, but it's also going to be a good opportunity for a lot of consumers."
US President Donald Trump has threatened to raise huge tariff barriers that could hit up to $500 billion worth of Chinese trade. China has also threatened retaliation affecting several hundred billions of imports from the US.
The US trade deficit with China helped create jobs in China, without which the country would have faced big problems, Ma said. President Trump blames the trade deficit for a host of US economic ills including rising unemployment, which was one of the key issues he raised as an election issue.
Ma, who had promised to generate a million jobs in the US soon after President Trump's election, retracted his offer in September in the wake of the escalating trade war.
Ma wanted governments to support innovation and new technologies even if they threatened old, vested interests. His view, Ma added, was not to worry about technology.
According to him, it's the older people who worry about technology, then the government, and, thirdly, the successful people as they hated it.
"I never see young people worry about technology," he added.
"Trade is to form peace. Trade is to communicate. Nobody can stop free trade."
Opening the trade show, Xi had pledged to widen access to the economy. However, he targeted Trumpism with a veiled attack on "isolationanism," "protectionism," and "the law of the jungle."
The import expo, which is touted to be an annual affair, is widely believed to be a sign of the country's willingness to allow more imports and reduce surpluses with its trade partners.