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The convert communist

The convert communist

Only the other day, everyone was taken aback when he announced he would chuck up his business interests. He has been among the world's wealthiest tycoons but now it transpires that he has turned into a committed communist. Indeed, China's most famous entrepreneur and billionaire is now a card-carrying communist. Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba (BABA), with a net worth of more than $30 billion, is now identified as a Communist Party member by the People's Daily, the ruling party's official newspaper. The 54-year-old was being honoured by the Chinese government as one of 100 people who has made "outstanding contributions" to China's economic transformation in the past four decades. The revelation, for the first time by a state-run national tightening grip on China's private sector by the Communist Party under President Xi Jinping. "The fact he is 'outed' as a party member is significant, it's speaking to the times," said Duncan Clark, author of Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built. "The party is increasingly assertive about its role and people are reaffirming their commitment to the Xi (ideology)," he added. "It's almost like reading a pledge of allegiance every morning, it's getting more explicit." Ma had to deny publicly that he was being forced out of his own company by Beijing after announcing in September that he would step down as chairman next year.

Other Chinese tech industry titans on the People's Daily list were Tencent (TCEHY) CEO Pony Ma and Baidu (BIDU) chief Robin Li. Both were described as people "without political party affiliations." Since Communist Party members are required to put the party's interests above all else, analysts said Ma's newly confirmed membership could add fuel to growing suspicion of Chinese companies in Washington. Chinese businesses looking to spread across the world are already reporting to Beijing, particularly when their products are being used in areas of national security. A spokesperson for Alibaba, a New York Stock Exchange-listed company worth more than $400 billion, declined to reveal when Ma joined the Communist Party, which boasts nearly 90 million members nationwide. "Political affiliation of any executive does not influence the company's business decision-making process," she said. "We follow all laws and regulations in countries where we operate as we fulfil our mission of making it easier for people to do business anywhere in the digital era." The spokesperson also declined to disclose how much membership dues Ma has paid. Communist Party rules require members in the highest income bracket, those who earn more than $1,400 a month, to pay 2 per cent of their salary to the party. But it keeps the new card holder in the good books of the Beijing hierarchy.

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