The founder of Alibaba, one of the world’s biggest online retailers, made the promise at a pre-inauguration meeting with Donald Trump

Jack Ma was destined to live an ordinary life. He failed the Chinese university entrance exam several times before being accepted by the worst school in Hangzhou, and he was rejected from a dozen jobs – even selling chicken at KFC. Ma was ready to settle into a quiet life as an English teacher in eastern China, a position with few advancement prospects, when, during a trip to Seattle in 1995 working as a translator for a trade delegation, everything changed.

A friend showed Ma the internet. He placed a toe on to the information superhighway with a one-word search – “beer” – and, two decades later, Ma is the richest man in Asia, head of an e-commerce and finance empire that includes Alibaba, one of the largest retailers in the world.

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