Jack Ma, co-founder of China’s most valuable company, is a Communist Party member, the official Party newspaper said on Monday.
According to Forbes, Jack Ma is China’s richest man with a fortune of $35.8 billion. The People’s Daily also revealed Ma’s Party membership in a list of 100 people it said had helped drive the country “reform and opening up” process.
The lines between business and politics have become increasingly hazy in China as President Xi Jinping has led a campaign to ensure the Communist Party plays a leading role across all aspects of society.
Under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China began launching economic reforms in 1978 that moved away from traditional Communist doctrine and allowed for private enterprise. That eventually led to robust growth that turned the country into the world’s second-largest economy, behind the U.S.
The list of 100 people to be recognized on the 40th anniversary is being made public for review until Nov. 30, according to the People’s Daily newspaper. Beyond business leaders and sports stars, the list includes scientists, astronauts and artists.
Jack Ma is the richest man in China with a net worth of $38.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Ma said in September he plans to hand the executive chairman role to CEO Daniel Zhang next year.
Ma has been a vocal backer of President Xi’s policies in the past few years. In 2016, he proposed that the nation’s top security bureau use big data to prevent crime, endorsing China’s effort to build unparalleled online surveillance of its billion-plus people.
After Xi last year indicated that tackling inequality was becoming as important as boosting economic growth, Ma was one of the first to respond. He told a state publication that entrepreneurs who’ve obtained affluence have a responsibility to help others catch up.