Critics in China reportedly called ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming an ‘American apologist’ as talk of Microsoft’s potential TikTok acquisition picks up steam

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Zhang Yiming, founder and CEO of ByteDance, on April 23, 2018 in Fuzhou, Fujian Province of China.

Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images


  • People on a Chinese microblogging site called ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming a traitor, a coward, and an American apologist after the company confirmed it is the possibility of divesting to a US tech firm, per a TechCrunch report.
  • “Zhang Yiming used to praise the US for allowing debate, unlike in China, where opinions are one-sided,” wrote one user. “Now he got a slap in the face, why doesn’t he go argue with the US?”
  • The remarks come as President Trump has reportedly given Microsoft and ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a deal.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

TikTok has catapulted its parent company ByteDance into a tech giant, as the popular app has cemented itself as a de facto social media platform, garnering millions of users in the US. But with ByteDance now in talks to divest the company, some Chinese citizens are less than impressed.

As TechCrunch reported, hundreds of people took to Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site, to air their frustration with ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming for his compliance and cooperation in possibly selling TikTok to an American company.

The Weibo post featured a letter written by Yiming and addressed to company employees regarding the current status of TikTok’s US business. In it, he confirmed that the company was indeed discussing a possible deal with a tech firm designed to “ensure that TikTok can continue to serve American users.”

Users took to the comments section, calling the CEO out as a traitor of China, a coward, and an American apologist, according to TechCrunch. 

“Zhang Yiming used to praise the US for allowing debate, unlike in China, where opinions are one-sided,” wrote one user, as reported by the outlet. “Now he got a slap in the face, why doesn’t he go argue with the US?”

Per TechCrunch, Yiming’s account on Weibo is currently suspended amid backlash against the exec on the site.

The exchange comes as relations between the US and China remain strained, a tension that has been exacerbated in part by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as broader resistance from American lawmakers to Chinese tech platforms existing in the US. US lawmakers and officials have said the app’s ability to access user data poses national security concerns.

President Trump has urged ByteDance to divest its US TikTok business as a result, a reality that is now being considered. Microsoft is exploring a possible acquisition of the app.

Microsoft’s potential acquisition of TikTok is one of the latest developments in a series of efforts to distance the popular app from its ties to China. ByteDance, its parent company, is based in Beijing. President Trump has given Microsoft and ByteDance 45 days to come to an agreement on an acquisition deal, per a Monday Reuters report. The deadline was specifically set by The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS,) a government entity that monitors potential deals for national security concerns.

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