The House That Jack Ma Built
By Duncan Clark
Illustrated. 287 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $27.99.
The personal-computer and Internet revolution that began in the late 20th century eventually took over most of the world, but its most prominent players — Amazon, Apple, eBay, Google, Microsoft — were distinctly American. In the 21st century, it is not impossible to imagine an Internet revolution beginning in China.
That possibility is, as with so many aspects of China, a function of scale. Alibaba, the sprawling Chinese digital marketplace, is already by some measures larger than Amazon. Its payment tool Alipay alone accounts for one-third of the $2.5 trillion global online payments market. The dizzying rise of the company is a crucial part of China’s ascension as a global economic power, and if you’ve never heard of the company, rest assured that you will. When the Alibaba founder Jack Ma appeared onstage last year at a summit in Manila with Barack Obama, Obama interviewed him.