Why it matters: Jack Ma, the co-founder and chairman of Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group, has been officially confirmed as a member of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The country's richest man has rarely spoken of any political affiliations, though he did once describe his relationship with the Chinese government as "be in love with them, but don't marry them."

The official Communist Party newspaper, The People's Daily, wrote that Ma was among 100 people being honored by the CPC for their contribution to the country's economy and its "reform and opening up" process that began 40 years ago. It specifically refers to Ma, who has a $35.8 billion fortune, as a "CPC member."

"Under his leadership, Alibaba ranks among the top 10 global companies in terms of market value, making China a leading player in the international e-commerce industry, internet finance and cloud computing, spawning a large number of entrepreneurs and start-ups," People's Daily wrote.

Exactly why Ma's membership has been revealed now is unknown, though it could be related to the government's recent attempts to strengthen ties between the party and China's private businesses.

Ma has long been known as one of the more extrovert tech company leaders, having performed song and dance routines on stage and appeared in a 20-minute martial arts movie with Jet Li. He has never been one for talking about his political affiliations, despite publicly voicing support for President Xi Jinping's policies over the last few years.

Alibaba said any political ties did not affect the firm's operations. "Political affiliation of any executive does not influence the company's business decision-making process," a spokesperson told Reuters.

The People's Daily also mentions Robin Li, CEO of China's top search engine Baidu, and Tencent Holdings' chairman Pony Ma as other Chinese tech luminaries receiving the honor. It notes that both Lu and Ma are "non-partisan."

Back in September, Alibaba announced that CEO Daniel Zhang would succeed Ma as chairman of the board of Alibaba Group next year.