Earlier this week, the Times published a post on its Bits blog focusing on a recent interview with Jack Ma, founder of the giant B2B site Alibaba.com, and CEO of its parent company, Alibaba Group. Ma, who we featured last year in a How I Did It, told the Times that he believes the global recession will last three to five years and "If you don't accept that, you are in trouble."

Ma also shared his not-so-upbeat view on the current state of entrepreneurship in the United States. "You don't see the hope here," he said. "This time they are waiting for the government."

Ma's statement didn't sit well with at least one reader: Mitch Free, CEO of MFG.com, an Atlanta-based competitor of Alibaba.com, which former Inc. staff writer (and current Times writer) Stephanie Clifford profiled in our May 2008 issue. "While there is concern — and we should all be concerned — the spirit and confidence of grassroots manufacturing and entrepreneurship here is far from broken," Free wrote in the blog's comments section. "I...hope that (Ma) takes the time to visit some of the U.S. manufacturers and businesses that are fighting these business conditions to develop and grow. I think that doing so may give him a more accurate perspective of the American spirit."

Free might be on to something here. Over the past year, my colleagues and I have spoken with dozens, if not hundreds, of entrepreneurs who are battling through the recession with ingenuity, innovation, and hard work. That's a pretty good sample, but still just that. So is there any truth to Ma's assertion?