Obama Hosts Secret White House Meeting With China’s Richest Man

Barack Obama speaks with the chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba, Jack Ma (R), during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO summit in Manila on November 18, 2015.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama secretly met with Jack Ma, China’s richest man yesterday, in a private event that was not on the president’s schedule.

Ma was spotted by Washington Post reporter David Nakamura, who recorded the billionaire leaving the White House complex.

Ma would only tell reporters that the meeting was “very good” as he exited the White House. Obama aides informed the Post that the president met the billionaire for lunch.

In April, Ma became Asia’s richest man, overtaking the title from Wanda Group Co.’s Wang Jianlin, according to Bloomberg News.

Obama interviewed Ma last year during the APEC CEO summit on the subject of climate change.

“If we do not care about this Earth, we do not care about the water, food, environment, I think nobody can survive whether you’re big or small,” Ma said, urging all businesses to take environmental concerns seriously. “So this is the concern. This is the worry I have.”

During the interview, Obama praised Ma’s financial success.

“Jack, you have the benefit of having been on both sides of the equation — early entrepreneur, scratching and clawing to get things done, and then now obviously a very successful businessman,” he said, before asking him how to create the right “climate for innovation” for businesses.

“Government is useful just to reduce the tax, so no tax for these guys,” Ma joked as the crowd laughed.

“There you go,” Obama replied. “Well, you’ve got a lot of cheers from your fellow CEOs.”