Tech Founders Leave Companies Amid China’s Private Sector Crackdown

By Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009 and focuses on China-related topics. She is an engineer, chartered in civil and structural engineering in Australia.
November 11, 2021 Updated: November 11, 2021

Chinese private tech giants are reacting after three tech companies saw their founders and CEOs quit companies.

Zhang Yiming, the founder of TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, announced his resignation as ByteDance CEO in May. ByteDance in November said Zhang had completed the job transition and officially stepped down. 

Zhang, a Chinese computer engineer, founded Bytedance in March 2012.

In October 2014, Bytedance established the CCP branch, followed by a Party Committee in April 2017, then grassroots Party branches such as audit and operations, public affairs, and technical support, according to state-owned media.

In 2016, Zhang launched a short-form video app called Douyin and after one year released the overseas version called TikTok.

TikTok has more than 100 million users outside China.  

According to the 2021 Hurun 100 Rich List, a list of China’s richest people that was released on October 27, Zhang ranks second, with a net worth of $51 billion.

However, TikTok is alleged to cooperate with the Chinese authorities to promote Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda to western youngsters and censor and surveil contents that the totalitarian regime dislikes.  

Former President Trump ordered a ban on TikTok and Wechat in the United States as a threat to national security, but the Biden administration revoked the order.

Although used by the Chinese authorities, Bytedance, like other internet technology companies, is subject to official scrutiny. In May 2020, the Chinese media reported on the app Douyin for selling counterfeit goods, which the media blamed on “Zhang Yiming’s lack of moral values.”

Today, Zhang’s Weibo account still exists, but all of his more than 2,000 posts have been deleted.

On Oct. 29, Su Hua, CEO and co-founder of Kuaishou, a video-sharing mobile app developer based in Beijing, announced his resignation.

Kuaishou is Bytedance’s main competitor in China, with its social short video app very popular in countries such as Brazil, Pakistan, and Indonesia. The app is known as Snack Video or Kwai in overseas markets, according to Business Insider, a stock market media.

Another tech mogul Huang Zheng, 41, founder of Pinduoduo, the largest agriculture-focused technology platform in China, announced his retirement on March 17 when he released his first quarterly financial report. Huang Zheng ranked sixth in the 2021 Hurun 100 Rich List, worth about $34.4 billion.

Zhang Yiming and Huang Zheng are two prominent Chinese tech billionaires who made moves similar to Jack Ma’s announcement two years ago that he was resigning as chairman of the board of Alibaba, according to Forbes.

Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009 and focuses on China-related topics. She is an engineer, chartered in civil and structural engineering in Australia.