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It Turns Out China's Most Successful Capitalist is Actually a Communist

By NexChange
Financial Services

Jack Ma is the richest man in China, the 14th richest man in the world and the co-founder of Alibaba Group, the $420-billion e-commerce behemoth. Suffice to say, capitalism has been very, very good to Ma.

But, alas, China’s most successful – and high-profile – capitalist happens to actually be a communist, as the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal, Ma was identified as a member of the Communist Party on Monday in a list “of people who contributed to modernizing China’s economy” that was published by the People’s Daily, the party-run newspaper.

Ma, who recently announced that he’d be stepping down as chairman of Alibaba in September 2019, has kept his political leanings close to his vest. There “has been speculation before” that he was a member of the Communist Party, business consultant Duncan Clark told the Journal, but there’s never been anything concrete on public record about his affiliation. Clark, who is the author of Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built, was apparently taken off guard by the revelation.

There is a feeling among some analysts that the outing of Ma as a member of the Communist Party is part of a larger public relations campaign by China to show that it doesn’t favor state-owned businesses at the expense of corporate enterprises in the private sector.

This is the party saying, “Hey we have so many good guys after the [economic] reform,” said Steven Zhu, senior analyst at Pacific Epoch in Shanghai. “Luckily, Jack Ma is one of them.”

Mark Natkin, managing director at Marbridge Consulting in Beijing, said the news coincides with other recent efforts by the party to extend its influence.

“We are seeing an increasingly strong effort by the party to extend its control and influence to various corners of the business world,” Mr. Natkin said. “There will be increasing pressure…to wear a government-issued badge as a condition for being able to continue to operate smoothly in this market.”

Roughly “one-third of China’s private-sector entrepreneurs” are members of the Communist Party, Kellee Tsai, dean of humanities and social science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told the Journal.

Ma’s net worth is estimated to be nearly $42 billion, growing by almost $10 billion last year alone.

Photo: Alibaba Group

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