"Xuexi Qiangguo", which literally translates as 'Study to make China strong' and is a play on the government propaganda theme of applying President Xi Jinping's thoughts, overtook Tik Tok's Chinese version Douyin and WeChat to become the county's most popular app on Apple's China app store last week.
It was developed by a largely unknown special projects team at Alibaba known as the "Y Projects Business Unit", which takes on development projects outside the company, said the people.
New York-listed Alibaba declined to comment on whether the business unit had developed the app.
The app's development by Alibaba, whose Chairman Jack Ma is a member of the Communist Party, is the latest example of a Chinese tech company collaborating with the government.
The country's propaganda department has released the app ahead of next month's National People's Congress in Beijing, China's top annual parliamentary gathering.