Cal Thomas: What Jack Ma can re-teach America

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Monday, September 22, 2014 5:57pm
  • Opinion

In the fairy tale “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” Ali Baba, a poor woodcutter, is in the forest when he hears a group of robbers approaching on horseback. Afraid, he climbs a tree and hears one of the men say, “open sesame.” A door opens in a rock and the men go in, the door shutting behind them when another says, “close sesame.”

When they leave, Ali Baba climbs down and approaches the rock. He says, “open sesame” and it opens for him. Inside he discovers jewels and gold, which he takes, becoming rich himself.

Jack Ma is the founder of the Chinese Internet retailer Alibaba. According to The New York Times, Alibaba is “the world’s largest Internet commerce company, with 231 million active buyers using its site, 11.3 billion annual orders and $296 billion in annual merchandise sales.” Its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange established its value at $168 billion, 2-1/2 times the size of eBay. But, unlike the fairy tale Ali Baba, Jack Ma is no thief. He has, however, “borrowed” from American ideals we seem to have forgotten in an age of envy, greed and entitlement. Incredibly, he has become a success in communist China, an unlikely place to find such principles practiced.

While there are legitimate concerns over how the Chinese government might capture and use credit card numbers and other information that flows through Alibaba’s website, the philosophy Jack Ma embraced on his road to success is straight from an older and nearly forgotten America.

In addition to business advice, the website vulcanpost.com has compiled some of Ma’s sayings that are the antithesis of Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book” in which Chairman Mao laid out Communist Party principles.

Here are some thoughts from Chairman Jack:

“What is failure: Giving up is the greatest failure.”

“What your duties are: To be more diligent, hardworking and ambitious than others.”

In modern America we punish the fruits of hard work and ambition with higher taxes and more regulation, forcing many businesses to seek relief by moving overseas. As The Wall Street Journal reported last week, “With the developed world’s highest corporate tax rate at over 39 percent, including state levies, plus a rare demand that money earned overseas should be taxed as if it were earned domestically, the U.S. is almost in a class by itself. It ranks just behind Spain and Italy, of all economic humiliations. America did beat Portugal and France, which is currently run by an avowed socialist.”

To those who waste energy complaining, Jack Ma offers this advice: “If you complain or whine once in a while, it is not a big deal. However, if it becomes habitual, it will be similar to drinking: the more you drink, the stronger the thirst. On the path to success, you will notice that the successful ones are not whiners, nor do they complain often.”

To an older generation these truths are beyond debate and when applied they can improve any life.

Jack Ma has scrupulously avoided politics and advises people in business to do the same, which is probably why the Beijing dictatorship has allowed him to pursue his goals. Apparently, they do not see him as a threat to their hold on power.

Still, the principles Ma used to build his giant firm are ready-made for the Republican Party, which seems to have no positive message and is cowering in shadows for fear of being demonized by media and the left.

Jack Ma has some wisdom on that score. He says you can’t unify everyone’s thoughts, but you can unify everyone through a common goal.

While his message applies to anyone, anemic Republicans could use it most. They should stop whining about President Obama and start focusing on principles with a track record of success.

Unlike in the fairy tale, such a treasure doesn’t need a secret phrase to unlock it. It’s right in front of them and there for the taking.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.

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