It’s no secret Alibaba has made significant moves to clean up its global image since their 2014 IPO, but commander-in-chief Jack Ma has now said that removing counterfeit products is a matter that inextricably links Alibaba and the Chinese economy.

In an interview with state media outlet Xinhua, Ma said that while the effect of having counterfeits on the Alibaba marketplaces was limited, the company suffered from forgeries due to their dependence on the health of the Chinese economy.

Ma went as far as to claim that for every counterfeit product Alibaba sells, they stand to lose five customers, dismissing comments that they have benefitted from the wide network of black market items within its stores.

Alibaba has attracted criticism from both the Chinese and U.S. governments in the past for falling short in efforts to curb counterfeits being sold on its e-retail platforms, primarily Taobao. The Chinese government released a white paper at the start of the year accusing the tech giant of failing to take action to eradicate fakes prior to their record-breaking 2014 IPO. U.S. agencies, including the U.S. Trade Representative, have been critical of the sites’s counterfeit policy for years.

The Chinese e-commerce giant has recently made a series of moves to throw off the counterfeit stereotype and endear its platform to international audiences as they increasingly invite foreign products into their ecosystem.

This August Alibaba added an English option to its IP protection system TaoProtect, allowing English speakers to report instances of counterfeit. They have also made a handful of investments in technology aimed at curbing counterfeit, including Israeli-based QR tech company Visualead, who create ‘dotless’ QR codes for packaging.

In his latest interview Ma said the consumer complaint rate for products on their platform currently sits at just over 0.01%, though he did not specify the scope of the platforms included. He noted that if China continues to be pigeonholed as a market for making quick money then Alibaba has no future.

Ma also noted that big data was playing a big role in identifying and shutting down counterfeit operators.

Combatting counterfeit isn’t the only measure the company has taken to improve its image since its IPO. In June they also joined western internet giants Google, Amazon and Walmart in banning products that feature the confederate flag, citing guidelines that prohibit “materials that are ethnically or racially offensive.”

Alibaba’s stock has taken a beating over the past few months as market instability has unbalanced several large tech companies. However their share price has bounced back slightly this month after falling below $0.60 USD to reach an all time low in September.

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or

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