Jack Ma

Alibaba's Jack Ma identified as member of China's Communist Party

Ma, facing the camera, shakes hands with Xi, back to the camera
Xi greets Ma at an event. Photo: Ted S. Warren/Getty Images

Jack Ma, the c0-founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, was identified by the People's Daily, China's state-run media outlet, as a member of the Communist Party. His name appeared on a list honoring people working to modernize the Chinese economy, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The backdrop: Ma has long kept a distance from Chinese politics. He once said companies' relationship with Beijing should be, "Love them, don’t marry them." But as the Communist Party gains influence under President Xi Jinping, it is seeking to publicly link itself to China's most powerful names.

Jack departs the house he built

Jack Ma surrounded by people cheering
Jack Ma at the New York Stock Exchange the day Alibaba went public in September 2014. Photo: Getty Images

When Jack Ma co-founded e-commerce behemoth Alibaba in 1999, China's internet culture barely existed. Now, his company is worth $500 billion — and, next to China's president, Ma himself may be the most recognized Chinese celebrity on the planet.

What's happening now: Today is Ma's 54th birthday as well as the 19th anniversary of Alibaba's founding, and he marked it by setting in motion his retirement. In a letter to shareholders and employees, Ma said he will step down in a year and be succeeded by company CEO Daniel Zhang.

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