SHANGHAI, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- The opening of the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) Monday signaled a milestone in history as China shifts from an exporting nation to an importing country, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma said.
For the past 40 years, China's exports and manufacturing have not only helped lift hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty but also change the lives of millions of people in the world, Ma said at a panel discussion on the sidelines of the six-day event in Shanghai.
"From today China will become a country of importing," Ma said, describing such transition "a big challenge" for China and "a great opportunity" for the world.
"When China is going to import 30 trillion dollars of goods and 10 trillion dollars of services, that's going to fundamentally change the whole infrastructure of business and the ecosystem," the entrepreneur said, referring to the country's pledge on imports in the next 15 years announced Monday morning.
While the transition will inevitably bring pains to many domestic businesses, Ma said, China is able to take on all the challenges.
"I remember in 2001 when China joined the WTO, everybody was worried, saying the wolf was coming because the other people were manufacturing better and China would be in trouble. But 10 years later, people think China is a wolf. So when you take the challenge and change yourself, that is the opportunity," he said.
China's initiative of expanding imports will be a great opportunity for the world, as the market is huge, Ma said, citing data that the Chinese consume more than 600 million pigs every year.
But for companies to establish themselves in the Chinese market, they need to be patient and find innovative ways, Ma said.
"Going to China is a beautiful but not a smooth road. Nothing can be achieved in one or two years," he said.
As a word of advice, Ma urged entrepreneurs around the world to seize the historic opportunity.
"Let other people complain. You should take action to sell to China -- online, offline, anyway you can -- you just have to do it; years later, you will realize the opportunity," Ma said.