Shanghai: Head of e-commerce giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, was officially confirmed as a member of the Communist Party, the official Party newspaper said on Monday, debunking a public assumption the billionaire was politically unattached.

The People’s Daily revealed Ma's Party membership in a list of 100 people it said had helped drive the country "reform and opening up" process.

In September, Ma, who helped launch China’s online retailing boom, announced that he would step down as the chairman of Alibaba next year.

He is China's richest man with a fortune of $35.8 billion, according to Forbes.

Ma’s political affiliation raised questions about what would happen if he were forced to choose between party mandates and Alibaba shareholder interests.

Alibaba declined to comment on Ma's Party membership but said political ties did not impact the firm's operations.

Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba in 1999 in an apartment in the eastern city of Hangzhou to connect Chinese exporters with foreign retailers. It expanded into consumer retailing, becoming the world’s biggest e-commerce company by the total value of goods sold, as well as online finance, cloud computing and other services.

Alibaba’s $25 billion initial public stock offering on Wall Street in 2014 is the biggest to date by a Chinese company.

With agency inputs