Ma named as an adviser to Cameron

Updated: 2015-10-21 23:21

By MENG JING in Beijing and CECILY LIU in London(China Daily USA)

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About 22 months after taking a selfie together, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese business tycoon Jack Ma have seen their relationship move to a higher level.

Cameron appointed Ma, the founder of Chinese ecommerce conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, a member of his business advisory group as President Xi Jinping started his four-day state visit to the United Kingdom on Tuesday.

Ma, whose company raised $25 billion in New York in the world’s largest initial public offering in September last year, is the first Chinese entrepreneur and the only head of an Internet firm to join Cameron’s 19member business advisory board.

Cameron, who met with Ma at 10 Downing Street after the appointment, said he is very interested in Alibaba’s globalization strategy and how the Internet can empower small and medium-sized companies.

He and Ma have a good personal relationship. During a three-day visit to China in 2013, Cameron posted a photo he took with Ma on Twitter.

Experts said the appointment highlights the UK’s desire to increase trade with China, and is expected to cement a new “golden era” for Sino-British relations heralded by Xi’s visit.

Hugo Swire, UK minister of state for Asia, told China Daily on Monday there are many opportunities for the two countries to work together and the “best is yet to come”.

“What we’ve seen in the past 10 years is a quadrupling of British exports to China, as the Chinese economy is a key driver of global growth,” he said, adding that Xi’s visit will strengthen the relationship between the UK and China in trade and investment.

Trade volume between China and the UK reached $58 billion between January and September this year. Bilateral trade amounted to $80.9 billion last year, up 15.3 percent year-on-year.

The UK is China’s second-largest trading partner in the European Union, while China remains the UK’s second-largest trading partner outside the EU.

“Cameron’s decision to appoint Ma as an adviser illustrates just how serious the British government is about accelerating UK exports to China in the coming years,” said Mark Hedley, ecommerce expert at the China-Britain Business Council.

Zhang Jianping, director of the International Economic Cooperation Institute for International Economic Research under the National Development and Reform Commission, said the appointment of Ma as a business adviser to Cameron is a clear sign that the UK sees ecommerce as a strong engine to further boost bilateral trade.

Unlike Ma, the others on Cameron’s business advisory board are chief executives in more traditional industries, including Bob Dudley of BP, Nigel Wilson of Legal & General, Carolyn McCall of easy Jet, and Jayne Anne Ghadia of Virgin Money.

“Alibaba has built its business empire online based on a creative model. It represents an advanced model of the so-called Internet Plus, which is supported by China’s central government. I think that is what Cameron sees in him,” Zhang said.

Michael Evans, president of Alibaba, said in London on Monday that his company, which sees cross-border ecommerce as a top priority, will further expand into Europe by upgrading its London office into a strategic center for the continent.

Contact the writers at cecily.liu@mail.chinadailyuk. comandmengjing@chinadaily.

Zhang Chunyan and Zheng Xin contributed to this story.