Chinese billionaire and founder of the mega e-commerce site Alibaba, Jack Ma, has been identified as a member of China’s communist party. According to a report from Agence France Presse (AFP), Ma — who is not only the wealthiest man in China, but also one of the richest in the world — was “outed” as a communist by the party’s press arm, the People’s Daily. Ma was featured in a story about party members who played significant parts in modernizing and transforming China.
Although he holds the top spot on the Asian superpower’s wealth list, Ma is not the only successful businessman who is a communist party member. AFP reports that Xu Jiayin, a real estate mogul, and Wang Jianlin, who founded the Wanda Group conglomerate, are also billionaire members. While Ma is most known for his wealth, he has remained relatively quiet about his political leanings, and until the People’s Daily report few knew he was a full-blown party member.
The report specifically lauded Ma for his advocacy of China’s “Belt and Road initiative,” which has been criticized by foreign powers who view the country’s growing global presence as a threat to world security. Under the initiative, Beijing has been offering large loans to developing countries in return for influence. The Chinese military has also been establishing new bases of operations — particularly in Africa — but China is also considering sending troops to Afghanistan. Domestically, the Communist Party praised Ma’s work in the Zhejiang Province, which is home to Alibaba’s headquarters.
While not every business leader the country is a member of the communist party, China’s President Xi Jinping wants the party to play a more active role in the private sector. About 75 percent of businesses in China host a communist party-affiliated organization, and according to a decree from President Xi, it is now mandatory that companies which employ three or more party members must establish a communist party group. If there aren’t enough employees to warrant a standalone organization, neighboring businesses may also start a joint organization.
“We must do a good job in the education and management of party members and guide them to play an active role,” Xi said while speaking with Chinese officials, according to AFP.
Although Xi is focusing on bringing privately owned businesses under the communist party’s sphere of influence, CNBC reports that Ma has been a member since the 1980s. It is unclear what Ma’s plans are when he hands over the helm of Alibaba in a year, but one guess is politics could be his next venture. He will, however, remain on the company’s board of directors until 2020, according to CNBC.