ByteDance Founder Donates $77 Million Amid China Crackdown on Tech Sector
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming will give 500 million yuan (US$77.35 million) to an education fund in his hometown of Longyan in China’s Fujian province, the local education bureau said in a statement on Tuesday, 22 June.
Zhang’s donation will go towards the “Fangmei Foundation”, a trust named after his grandmothers, and will be used to train local teachers, support vocational education and improve educational technology infrastructure, among others. The foundation will focus its charitable efforts on the region’s rural areas.
Earlier this month, a photo was posted online showing Zhang talking to local officials and teachers in a visit to Yongding No. 1 Middle School, one of his alma maters. He donated a smaller 10 million yuan to the school late last year.
Credit: Longyan City Education Bureau
The move comes amid Beijing’s unprecedented antitrust crackdown on the tech sector, pressuring them to help in social development and serve national agendas, instead of just focusing on profit. This has created a charity rush of sorts among the country’s tech billionaires.
Chinese food delivery giant Meituan’s founder, Wang Xing, in June put about US$2 billion worth of his company’s shares into the Wang Xing Fund to promote education and research.
Pony Ma, founder and chairman of Tencent Holdings, also announced in April that his company will give 50 billion yuan to support a “sustainable social values” program that aims to solve various social issues.
Colin Huang, the founder of e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, who stepped down from his post in March, similarly donated US$100 million to his alma mater of Zhejiang University.
ByteDance also faced scrutiny from Beijing for venturing into online education in recent years, with the launch of the GuaGuaLong English and GuaGuaLong Mind, apps that aim to teach children English and math respectively. President Xi Jinping said that schools should be responsible for learning, rather than tutoring companies.
ByteDance, which owns viral video app TikTok and news app Toutiao, is said to be the world’s largest startup and is valued at upwards of $250 billion in private trades. The company earned US$34 billion in revenue last year with an operating loss of US$2.1 billion, as reported by Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, Zhang is presently the fourth-richest person in China with a net worth of US$44.5 billion. He unexpectedly announced last month that he would be stepping down from the company by the end of the year to focus on its long-term strategies and social responsibilities.
Written by Kyle Chua