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E-commerce giant Alibaba aims to win outside China

Already dominant in its home country, Alibaba plans to do a lot more around the world in the coming year.

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Daniel Zhang, who took over as Alibaba's new CEO on Sunday, plans to make Alibaba more of a global player. Getty Images

Alibaba wants to go global in a big way.

Days after taking the helm as the company's new CEO, Daniel Zhang told employees Wednesday he's making international growth Alibaba's primary mission in the coming year.

"We must absolutely globalize," Zhang said, according to an official Alibaba website story published Thursday. "We will organize a global team and adopt global thinking to manage the business."

Since its founding in 1999, Alibaba has skyrocketed to become China's leading e-commerce company. It then used that success to launch the world's biggest initial public offering ever last year, raising $25 billion on the New York Stock Exchange.

But while Alibaba has spread out with several e-commerce sites, a cloud-computing service, a marketing arm and many other offerings, it still derives substantially all of its revenue from China. Global expansion should help Alibaba diversify and find potentially millions of new customers for its services. Zhang even said Thursday that global expansion is a matter of survival, to ensure that the company will continue to exist for decades to come.

Alibaba's intentions could create a new international competitor for Amazon, the world's biggest e-commerce company by sales, and potentially spark some pricing wars as the two vie for customers. Meanwhile, Amazon has struggled to grow in China, where Alibaba and JD.com are major players in the market. Hoping to grow there, Amazon in March opened an online storefront within Alibaba's Tmall site, making itself Alibaba's customer and competitor at the same time.

So far, though, Alibaba has made only small moves outside its home country. It plans to invest heavily in new and existing overseas operations, including AliExpress, a cross-border marketplace to sell Chinese goods worldwide, and Tmall Global, which helps foreign brands sell online in China.

In the US, Alibaba has opened the retail site 11 Main and invested $15 million in US interior-design firm 1stdibs last year. It's also put down larger bets on US-based shipper ShopRunner and messaging service Tango. Last week, it disclosed a roughly 10 percent stake in Seattle e-commerce company Zulily.