Alibaba founder Jack Ma was revealed to be a member of the Communist Party of China by People’s Daily, the party’s official mouthpiece.
Interestingly, however, while most of the Western media widely covered the disclosure as a shocking revelation, many observers in China were hardly surprised.
In the entry that identified Ma as a party member, China’s richest man was listed among the 100 Chinese people who made extraordinary contributions to the country’s development over the last 40 years, AFP reports.
The feature praised Ma for playing an important role in pushing President Xi Jinping’s pet project, the Belt and Road global trade infrastructure initiative.
Ma was also recognized as one of the “outstanding builders of socialism with Chinese characteristics in Zhejiang Province.”
While the majority of listed members still come from the working classes or state sector, it was the inclusion of Ma that caught the most attention.
Those who were shocked by this news apparently failed to recognize that the party simply isn’t that exclusive anymore.
Despite its historical ideology of proletariat empowerment, the Chinese Communist Party has come to embrace “elements of capitalism” over the years.
This was made evident in 2002 when the party amended its constitution to adopt then outgoing president Jiang Zemin’s core theory called the “Three Represents.”
The amendment, which was intended to widen its representation of what he called advanced socialist productive forces, enabled the party to represent the majority of the people, “including people from the ever-growing private sector.”
According to its message, “with the Three Represents theory well positioned as the guideline for both the Party and the nation, dogmatism is a thing of the past.”
Private entrepreneurs have since been fostered to help build the world’s economic superpower now second only to the United States.
Observers believe that Ma’s affiliation with the party is being highlighted to strengthen the party’s legitimacy. Critics, however, noted that this also reflects the notion that the party controls the economy and society.
“It’s going backwards from the Deng Xiaoping era when the party advocated the separation of the party and the government,” Tsinghua University sociology professor Guo Yuhua told the New York Times.
Aside from Ma, the party’s other billionaire members include property titan Xu Jiayin and Wanda Group founder Wang Jianlin.