This report is an abridged and adapted translation of an article by the Charity Times (公益时报) published on the 19th of August 2020.
“A virus does not have a passport and does not need a visa. Viruses do not distinguish between people from different nations or races. Therefore, I think this pandemic gives us as humans a chance to reflect and mature, and realise that in the face of life and death, we have to learn to establish genuine collaboration that does not distinguish based on nation, race and religion.”
The words above were delivered by Jack Ma during a ceremony where he was awarded the King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein Order for Distinction of the First Degree in Jordan, for his distinguished contribution in helping Jordan and other countries fight the battle against the deadly coronavirus. Ma is the first non-Jordanian to be granted this award. As such, his contribution to this global public health battle and the value of collaboration that he stressed are worthy of our attention.
Jack Ma founded the Jack Ma Foundation, focusing on education, entrepreneurship, female leadership and healthcare waste disposal, after resigning from the board of Alibaba. Ma gave his Foundation the following principle: adopt commercial approaches and uphold an attitude of promoting charity. He believes that programs focusing on charity should be result-oriented, efficiency-oriented and transparency-oriented. When Covid-19 first broke out in early 2020, Ma and Alibaba reacted very quickly by creating a temporary anti-epidemic team. “Alibaba had the experience of SARS in 2003, and that is why we were able to react so rapidly”, said Jack Ma.
On the 25th of January, Alibaba commenced a project involving the donation of one billion RMB to Wuhan to be used for medical supplies. The next day, Alibaba formed a Global Procurement Team purchasing medical supplies from all around the world to aid Wuhan in fighting the disease. On the 29th of January, the Jack Ma Foundation announced a donation of a hundred million RMB to support the development of vaccines to cure the coronavirus. The reason for this donation, explained Ma at the time, was the concern that the pandemic would not end in a short period of time, and therefore effective vaccines are a necessity to fight this potentially long battle.
When the pandemic had come under control in China, Jack Ma and his team began to put their focus on other countries. The Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation set up priorities for their donations: countries where the national economies, health care systems and people’s lives could be significantly affected by the pandemic; countries that had supported China in times of difficulties; and neighbouring and island countries. Before May the Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations had already donated face masks and other medical supplies to thirteen Asian countries, two European countries, fifty-four African countries and twenty-five countries in North and Latin America. To the country of Jordan, Jack Ma has provided 100,000 medical reagents, which tremendously increased Jordan’s capacity for virus testing, 30 ventilators, 50 infrared thermometers, 300,000 face masks and 10,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Another question that has given Ma and his team much thought is how corporations around the world can manage to effectively arrange resources and distribute them to the neediest places at the highest speed. This challenge has set huge obstacles for corporations in China, including Alibaba. At a time when airlines in Europe had all cut their services, Alibaba initiated an eWTP (electronic World Trade Platform) built up jointly with the Belgian government to help donors deliver goods to recipients. Cainiao Smart Logistics Network Limited, for example, joined this platform and was the first company to support the deliverance of donated goods in more than thirty cities in fifteen countries, giving donors a channel to donate and recipients local pickup points to collect donations.
The management of the eWTP depends on the organisations involved and their employees. As Jack Ma states, “organisations are not made for disasters, rather, a disaster will test organisations, and their culture and employees. This (the effective management of organisations) comes from the ‘training’ of our daily work.” When the pandemic first occurred, Alibaba established several departments to protect the safety of its employees and finish the global procurement plan. Many young employees worked hard even during the Spring Festival holidays to make sure the company was running smoothly.
One notion that Jack Ma has reiterated on his social media accounts is the notion of “one world, one fight”. He believes that the coronavirus pandemic is a great challenge for human beings in a globalised era. The issues revealed by this pandemic can no longer be solved by any country alone, but demand joint efforts by every country in the world. As the entrepreneur posted on his Weibo, “at this moment resources should be generously shared and communication needs bridged so countries can learn experiences and lessons from one another, and only then will we have a chance to defeat this pandemic”.