It turns out that China's most prominent capitalist, billionaire Jack Ma, the head of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is a card-carrying member of the Communist Party.
According to Reuters, Jack Ma's membership in the Communist Party of China (CPC) was revealed by the People's Daily, official paper of the CPC. Ma was listed among the 100 people who have helped drive China through the "reform and opening up" process. Reuters speculates the CPC outed Ma as a means of coercion. From the report:
It was unclear why the paper chose 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 grown rapidly, driven by the successes of private firms.
Ma, who announced in September he would step down as Alibaba chairman next year, is China’s highest-profile business leader. He has acted as an adviser to political leaders in Asia and Europe and fostered big ambitions in the United States.
He has driven Alibaba to become a $390 billion giant, which dominates China’s online retail market, stretches from logistics to social media, and has spawned a separate fintech empire around popular payment platform Alipay.
Jack Ma's fortune rises to that of $35.8 billion, according to Forbes, making him the wealthiest man in China.
Needless to say, Ma's affiliation with the party comes as a shock to many, an identity that appears to have been kept tightly under wraps over the years. Not even the domestic search engine Baidu Inc. listed Ma as a member of the CPC.
In a statement to Reuters, Alibaba refused to comment on Jack Ma's membership in the CPC, adding that his political ties do not impact the firm's operation.
"Political affiliation of any executive does not influence the company’s business decision-making process,” a spokesperson told Reuters in an email. "We follow all laws and regulations in countries where we operate as we fulfill our mission of making it easier for people to do business anywhere in the digital era."
As to when Jack Ma became a CPC member, the paper did not say. According to Fox News, he has openly backed the policies of President Xi Jinping. In 2016, he suggested the government should use big data to prevent crime, which has essentially been used to advance the surveillance state.
News of Jack Ma's relationship with the CPC, a party that endorses China's one-child policy and now an expanded surveillance state, comes as supposed "free-market values" regarding the oppressive state have been placed under increased scrutiny in the age of President Trump. Just recently, the American Big Tech company Google announced it would be working with the Chinese government to help censor unfavorable content through the creation of Dragonfly, a prototype search engine designed to filter information according to China's whims. As reported by The Daily Wire's Ashe Schow, even Amnesty International has now launched a petition calling on Google to reverse course.
“If Google is willing to trade human rights for profit in China, could they do the same in other countries?” Amnesty International asked. "Drop the Dragonfly programme and publicly commit not to re-launch a search engine in China at the expense of human rights."