Ant Financial, the vast commercial arm of China's Alibaba, is on a mission to promote free trade across the planet by platforming small businesses. Flying in the face of US President-Elect Donald Trump's repeated promises to re-engineer trade with China, the platform play from Alibaba aims to reimagine global trade using an all-inclusive digital-platform approach.
Dr Long Chen, chief strategy officer of Ant Financial, who was in London to take part in a special agreement between UK and Chinese regulators, said in a rare interview: "Jack Ma proposed this idea of an Electronic World Trading Platform [eWTP] to try and have a trading platform for SMEs across the world.
"It should be done at the company level and so the government, it should support them. From the World Trade Organisation and from other experience, we see that for the major collaborations at the country level, things improve very slowly. This is actually one of Alibaba's major missions right now, to promote this eWTP platform globally."
Asked how he thought Donald Trump would react to such a mission, Dr Chen said: "I would think it's a good thing for American SMEs."
The recent G20 Summit in Hangzhou made the uncommon decision to include a private sector proposal – Alibaba's eWTP. Ma, who also chairs the Business 20 SME development taskforce, said the eWTP would help SMES, even individuals, to participate in the global economy through the internet.
It's worth emphasising here that Alibaba is looking to change the way international trade happens. Within the dizzying array of partnerships and verticals that comprise Alibaba's business is an unparalleled attention to logistics.
For example, in 2013 Alibaba launched Cainiao from a consortium of logistics companies in China's Zhejiang province. Now Cainiao, which raised around $1.5bn (£1.2bn) of funding earlier this year, aims to deliver Alibaba's trading power to the rest of the world.
Dr Chen described Cainiao as a logistics brain. He said: "We are hoping in the near future that any commodity should be delivered within three to five days, anywhere in the world."
The system uses advanced analytics to handle and track millions of packages at any one time. "It's like a brain that can tell logistics companies where to store their stuff and where to deliver their stuff, and the most efficient way to do this. It will increase inventory and increase efficiency of the whole industry."
Dr Chen was at London's Level 39 taking part in an agreement between the UK's Financial Conduct Authority and the People's Bank of China to foster a clement regulatory environment for Chinese fintech.
In 2015, online trading volume in China was around RMB3.8 trillion, which accounts for 12.7% of the country's total retail sales. As a percentage of sales, this already exceeds those of the United States.
"What is interesting about China is that it's really the second industrial revolution and the third one, which is based on information, both happening at the same time," noted Chen.
"If you look at payments, I don't think people realise how much the technology has improved in the past 10 years or so. Alipay's payment processing at peak hours has exceeded 120,000 transactions per second [TPS]. Back in 2010 we could only do 300 TPS.
"Now it's not only fastest, but also cheapest. In China now consumers don't pay when making payments and the average fee we charge merchants is about 0.6%. I believe in the US it's about 3%. So we are an order of magnitude cheaper, much faster and completely inclusive; hundreds of millions of people are using it," he added.