Xi Jinping is Making a Mistake by Sidelining Chinese Tech CEOs

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ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming

San Francisco / May 22, 2020
 
Three days ago, ByteDance Founder and CEO Zhang Yiming announced in a blog post that he will step down as CEO by the end of 2021. This is big news in the technology sector. Zhang was one of the best tech CEOs in the world. He started ByteDance in 2012 and created very successful consumer apps including TikTok. The popularity of TikTok made the Trump Administration float the idea of banning the app in the United States and Trump tried to force a sale that was dropped by the Biden Administration.

Many writers have described the successes of ByteDance and TikTok. I want to focus on the political implications. Zhang does not openly say this, but the Chinese Community Party pressured Zhang to leave his CEO position because he was becoming too powerful. In recent months, the CCP has cracked down on leading Chinese tech CEOs including Jack Ma. The CCP does not want rivals to develop in Chinese society. The CCP is sending a strange message to its aspiring Chinese startup CEOs.

The Biden Administration should view this as an opportunity. The US must convince more people around the world that the American model is better than the Chinese model. Biden's team should point to the sidelining of Zhang as evidence that the private sector in China is trapped by the thinking of the CCP. If you are an aspiring CEO anywhere in the world, go to Silicon Valley and create the company of your dreams. The American system will create pathways to advance, not sideline you if your company becomes too successful. The Biden Administration must capitalize on this flaw in Xi Jinping's thinking.