Since the 31-year-old Yao announced last July that injuries had ended his career with the Houston Rockets, he has become a university student and set up a wine business to go with owning a professional basketball team in China.
Photos in official media on Monday showed Yao at the weekend closing ceremony for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Shanghai Committee.
"There are about 142 members in the group, and Yao is the youngest," Kong Rong, who works in the service office of committee, was quoted as saying by the China Daily.
The advisory committee does not have any real power, but the newspaper said Yao is supposed to attend regular meetings, and can make suggestions for the advisory body and government departments.
Yao was quoted as saying "raising proposals is very serious business, and I do not want to be hasty."
It is common for sports figures to move into politics in China. Olympic gold medal hurdler Liu Xiang is a member of both the Shanghai and national political advisory bodies.
Yao, one of the most popular celebrities in China from his eight seasons in the NBA, is a student at Jiaotong University, one of the top universities in his hometown Shanghai.
In November, he released the first-ever bottles of his new Yao Ming-branded wine, a 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon currently available only in mainland China, where the market for imported wines has boomed over the past decade.