Alibaba founder, investor and philanthropist Jack Ma is a Communist Party member, claimed China’s state newspaper on Monday. Notably, Jack Ma is among 100 people whom the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee will honour as part of a celebration marking 40 years since China’s economic reform and opening up.
It was not clear why the state newspaper has chosen to mention Ma’s affiliation now but it comes amid a push by Beijing to bring the country’s private enterprises more in line with Party values, especially in the technology sector that has steadily grown, driven by the successes of private firms.
In September this year, Ma had announced that he would resign as Alibaba chairman next year, is China’s highest-profile business leader. He has worked as an adviser to political leaders in Asia and Europe and encouraged big ambitions in the United States.
Ma took Alibaba to a $390 billion giant, which dominated China’s online retail market. Alibaba stretched from logistics to social media and has spawned a separate fintech empire around popular payment platform Alipay.
Domestic search engine Baidu Inc, when asked “is Jack Ma a Communist Party member”, also mostly said that he was not. Alibaba refrained to comment on Ma’s Party membership but said that political ties did not impact the firm’s operations.
“Political affiliation of any executive does not influence the company’s business decision-making process,” a spokesperson said in emailed comments to Reuters on Tuesday.
“We follow all laws and regulations in countries where we operate as we fulfil our mission of making it easier for people to do business anywhere in the digital era.”
The People’s Daily list also included Baidu head Robin Li and Tencent Holding Ltd chief Pony Ma, though did not name either of them as Party members. Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent together make up the “BAT” trio of China’s top tech firms.
The paper did not reveal when Jack Ma had become a Communist Party member.