Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma expects China’s short-term economic outlook to be “tougher than expected” and that trade fiction was inevitable with the U.S., according to CNBC. Ma’s comments come amid reports that China will lower its growth target for this year.

Jack Ma Alibaba
Jack Ma, Alibaba by UNclimatechange, Flickr

Alibaba tycoon expects hard times for Chinese economy

At an annual meeting of the General Association of Zheijang Entrepreneurs, the billionaire said, “In the coming three to five years … the economic situation will be even more arduous than everyone had expected.”

On Thursday, citing policy sources, Reuters said that China will lower its economic growth target for 2017 to about 6.5% from 6.5-7% last year. This reinforces a policy shift from supporting growth towards reforms to contain debt and housing risks. China’s growth last year was the slowest in the last 26 years but still within Beijing’s target range, notes CNBC.

Ma said at the meeting that it was “only natural” that China could not continue the rapid growth that it has witnessed over the past three decades. He added that the focus should be shifted towards the quality of growth, such as upgrading its manufacturing industry.

Ma “overall optimistic” on China-U.S. trade relations

Ma also spoke on topics such as China-U.S. relations and the impression he has of President Donald Trump after the meeting with him at Trump Tower. The Alibaba founder has an “overall optimistic” outlook on trade between the two largest economies in the world. However, he thinks that conflicts will always be there, notes CNBC.

“If [the conflicts] were not dealt with properly, they might lead to a relatively big trade war, which is not a good thing for China, the U.S. or the world economy,” Ma said.

China has been accused of being a currency manipulator, and Trump has proposed steep tariffs on imports from the county. Trump should not be underestimated, Ma said.

Ant Financial buys MoneyGram

Meanwhile, Alibaba’s digital payments arm Ant Financial is buying U.S.-based MoneyGram for $880 million, according to the BBC. MoneyGram has a presence in nearly 200 countries with about 350,000 outlets. Ant Financial has 630 million users. Regulatory approval from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment will be required for the takeover.

In a statement, Ant Financial Chief Executive Eric Jing said that the marriage of the two companies will “provide greater access, security and simplicity for people around the world to remit funds, especially in major economies such as the United States, China, India, Mexico and the Philippines.”