Jack Ma, the Chinese entrepreneur who founded e-commerce giant Alibaba and the country’s wealthiest man, was confirmed as a Communist Party member on Monday by party-run publication People’s Daily in its list of people who contributed to modernizing China’s economy, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
Ma is one of 100 people the ruling Communist Party of China’s Central Committee will honour as part of a celebration marking 40 years since the country’s economic reform and opening up. The others who will be feted include Tencent Holdings Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Pony Ma, Baidu Inc. CEO Robin Li, basketball star Yao Ming and volleyball coach Lang Ping. The list is being made public for review until November 30 for citizens to comment on it through phone, fax, letter or e-mail.
People’s Daily hailed Ma for his leadership and credited him for Alibaba‘s meteoric rise and ranking among the top 10 global companies in terms of market value. Ma was also praised for making China a leading player in the international e-commerce industry, internet finance and cloud computing, spawning a large number of entrepreneurs and start-ups.
Ma, a former English teacher, started the company in 1999 out of his apartment and has since driven the company to a dominant position in the e-commerce sphere in China. Further, the company has a strong overseas presence in markets from South East Asia to Russia and has, in recent years, ventured into diverse areas such as cloud computing, digital payments and movie production among others.
The extent of Alibaba’s rise can be gauged from its market value, which is said to be in the range of $420 billion, double the price at the time of its record IPO offering in 2001.
Ma has been a staunch supporter of President Xi’s policies over the years . In 2016, he backed the Chinese state project to use big data to prevent crime, endorsing China’s effort to build an online surveillance of its billion-plus people.
The WSJ report quotes a recent survey that found one-third of China’s private-sector entrepreneurs are communist party members. The report also raised troubling questions of conflict of interest, given Ma’s political allegiance since communist party members are also required to put party interests above all and how Ma will navigate between party mandates and Alibaba shareholder interests.