The war of words between the US and China over trade terms has ramped up a gear after the founder and chairman of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, warned the company could no longer meet its promise of creating one million jobs in the US.

In an interview with the Xinhua news agency, Jack Ma said the promise, which was made in January 2017 before Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, was based on the premise of friendly US-China cooperation and “rational” trade relations.

“However, the previous basis for trade has been undermined,” he said. “But we will continue to work hard to promote the healthy development of China-US trade.”

He added that trade is not a weapon and should not be used for wars. “Trade should be the propeller of peace,” he said.

Ma, who is expected to stand down as Alibaba chairman within a year, made his original US job creation announcement during a meeting with Donald Trump when still president-elect.

Although the aspiration was considered rather vague at the time, it offered the prospect of one million American small businesses and farmers being able to sell across Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao online marketplaces over the next five years.

But Ma now appears to be closing down that option and his intervention comes just a day after he warned that tensions between China and the US could spiral into a trade war that could last 20 years.

“It’s going to be a mess,” he said, coming after China announced that it would impose tariffs on $60bn worth of US goods in retaliation against the Trump administration’s imposition of 10% tariffs on $200bn worth of Chinese imports.

And in a separate development, the chief executive of Haier Group, the world’s largest white goods company, said it has suspended plans to sell products in China made by its GE Appliances subsidiary in the US.

“Originally there was no problem [importing from the US] but now there may be problems,” Zhang Ruimin told the Financial Times. “I think Chinese consumers are most interested in [GE] kitchen products. But the US government thought differently.”

Sourced from Xinhua, Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff