Why Alibaba's Jack Ma Says He Doesn't Need His Sudden Wealth

PHOTO: Jack Ma, Executive Chairman Alibaba Group speaks during the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York, Sept. 23, 2014.Stephen Cherin/AFP/Getty Images
Jack Ma, Executive Chairman Alibaba Group speaks during the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York, Sept. 23, 2014.

China's newly richest man Jack Ma, whose American hero is the fictional Forrest Gump, reminded the world that he is "100 Percent Made in China."

When asked about his recent success during a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative summit, Ma said he's constantly asked how he will spend his money. Ma said he is dedicating $3 billion of his nearly $20 billion to philanthropy, adding that he is responsible to society and its future.

"The money I donate is not my money," Ma said.

The former English teacher said he owes Alibaba's success to his customers: small and medium-sized companies. He zinged China's state-owned enterprises, saying Alibaba doesn't owe its success to government support.

"We don’t have a rich father or powerful uncle," Ma said.

The Biggest Winners From the Alibaba (BABA) IPO

The C-Suite Insider: Google's Eric Schmidt Wakes Up at 8 AM

Either way, Ma explained that people don't need an excess amount of money.

"We only eat three meals a day and we only sleep on one bed," he said, adding that once the rich age, "We’ll all spend the money in the hospital, buying medicine."

So how is Ma spending his time, now that he's a multi-billionaire? Ma previously stepped down as CEO and is executive chairman of Alibaba. He's been a trustee of the Nature Conservancy's China program since 2009 and is now chairman.

"A lot of people say forget about it. China is hopeless," Ma said. He added that people had similar doubts about the success of his business in China's controlled Internet environment.

"Fifteen years ago, people said e-commerce would never happen in China. We never gave up," Ma said, saying the country will see again "blue skies" and "clean water."

He said education and the world's youth are key to global change.

"I never had one day of education in the U.S.," Ma boasted. "I taught myself English. I’m 100 percent 'Made in China.'"

Ma said parents should stop complaining that their children spend too much time on the Internet or on their mobile phones.

"Today, the Internet is probably the best university to educate your kids," he said.

Addressing a fellow panelist, Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ma said, "I’m so excited. I will go to Nigeria soon."

Repeating comments he made at Alibaba's debut on the New York Stock Exchange, Ma said, "My best American idol is Forest Gump," repeating the film's famous line, "Life is a box of chocolates –- you never know what you’re going to get."

"But we have to be realistic. If you’re not standing on the ground, you won’t survive," explaining that he is "optimistic and realistic."

"Otherwise it's a fancy dream," Ma said.

Comments