Alibaba’s Jack Ma: Next year ‘tough’ for China economy

Jack Ma of Alibaba
Jack Ma speaking at the 2015 CGI Annual Meeting in New York. Photo: Adam Jeffery CNBC

Alibaba founder Jack Ma said Wednesday the coming year could be rocky for China as the country presses a crackdown on excessive spending by government employees and continues its economic transition.

“I believe the next five to 15 months will be tough time for China for various reasons, of course, one, the anti-corruption will definitely have some effect,” Ma said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

Ma does not see a significant decline in China during that time, adding that the government’s 7 percent growth target is still reachable. But even growth of 5 to 6 percent would is enough so long as the country invests in the right places and producers focus on quality over quantity.

He said the Chinese economy will only be sustainable once it is “clean” and “transparent,” and the next five to 15 years will be good times for the country.

Ma acknowledged that the economy is slowing down as the traditional growth drivers — exporting and infrastructure investment — cool off. He said Internet endeavors and e-commerce provide a way of creating new paths to growth.

Ma made his comments on China’s Singles Day, known as the world’s biggest 24-hour online shopping event. He said the day doesn’t just symbolize the future growth of Alibaba, but the potential power of Chinese domestic consumption,

“We’ve got 300 million middle-class people, and we believe in the next 15 years … a half billion people will be middle class, and the demand for high-quality products, high-quality services is huge,” he said.

Earlier, the e-commerce giant said it generated about $13 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) with an hour left in the shopping event — well above last year’s record of $9.3 billion, which Alibaba surpassed by 1 p.m. in China on Wednesday. It’s also well above the $2.4 billion sold on Cyber Monday, the biggest online sales day in the U.S.

GMV is the total amount settled through mobile wallet Alipay across Alibaba’s domestic and international platforms.

Shares of Alibaba were down more than 2½ percent Wednesday in Nasdaq trading. (Get the latest quote here.)

Singles Day, which falls on Nov. 11, was created in the 1990s as a way to celebrate single life—the 11.11 date represents solitary figures.

Alibaba became the first major company to monetize the holiday, launching a special online sale in 2009 that effectively transformed the day into a shopping phenomenon.

CNBC’s Nyshka Chandran contributed to this report.

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