Will Liang Rubo be Good for TikTok? Future of $400 Billion Company in Spotlight as Zhang Yiming Steps Down

Last Updated on June 1, 2021

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Will Liang Rubo, co-founder and head of HR for ByteDance, be a good change for TikTok? After it was announced that Zhang Yiming, the current CEO of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, will step down all eyes are on Rubo, who will take over the position.

Yiming, the CEO of one of the largest tech-startups in the world, released an internal letter to his employees, announcing his decision to step away from the CEO spotlight. “Since the beginning of this year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to better drive real long-term breakthroughs, which cannot simply rely on steady, but incremental, progress,” Yiming said. He admitted that he “lack[s] some of the skills that make an ideal manager.”

Zhang Yiming explained that he would be “handing over my role as C.E.O., and removing myself from the responsibilities of daily management, I will have the space to explore long-term strategies, organizational culture, and social responsibility, with a more objective perspective on the company.”

The $400 billion tech company has faced many challenges in recent years, nearly selling TikTok, its most successful brand, in an attempt to meet former President Donald Trump’s requirements and stay accessible in the United States. The popular social media app was already banned in India, whose government cited national security threats.

Though Trump’s demands have since fizzled out, ByteDance is facing more danger as the Chinese government begins to crack down on Big Tech. The government has begun to place heavier restrictions on business practices on tech companies. Last month, 34 Big Tech companies, which included ByteDance, were ordered to put national interest above all else and, going forward, will have to meet the government’s more stringent fair competition and consumer protection regulations.

The Chinese government imposed a $2.8 billion fine on Alibaba, a massive e-commerce company, for what the government deemed as monopolistic behavior. ByteDance and the 33 other companies were told to “heed Alibaba’s example,” after the e-commerce company pledged thorough reforms following the fine.

To combat the growing concerns of both investors and company executives, Zhang Yiming is stepping down from his position at ByteDance, letting new leadership navigate the difficult political terrain of being a CEO. This could be a smart decision, especially to keep TikTok relevant and unharmed by governmental tactics.

Lian Jye Su, an analyst at ABI Research in Singapore explained that “in order to stay successful and relevant, the CEOs of tech vendors need to dedicate a lot of energy to maintain[ing] good relationship with the government. Not all CEOs want to dedicate their time and energy on this task or have the right skill set to do so.” According to his own words, Yiming doesn’t.

Yiming admitted that he lacks “some of the skills that make an ideal manager” and that he’s “more interested in analyzing organizational and market principles, and leveraging these theories to further reduce management work, rather than actually managing people.” He also explained that he’s “not very social, preferring solitary activities like being online, reading, listening to music, and daydreaming about what may be possible.”

Zhang Yiming said in his letter that “there are still many things that we need to improve, and I think someone else can better drive progress through areas like improved daily management.” That person is Rubo, according to the current CEO. Instead, Yiming intends to “explore long-term strategies, organizational culture, and social responsibility, with a more objective perspective on the company,” and leave the day-to-day management of the company to Rubo, who “has been an invaluable partner” since Day 1.

This seems to be the best thing for TikTok and ByteDance as a whole going forward, giving the company the best chance to make impressive political dealings that will safeguard future mishaps. As a tech conglomerate, ByteDance needs someone at the helm capable of not only managing the inner workings of the company but the outside factors as well. Zhang  Yiming believes this person is Liang Rubo.

TikTok will likely be unaffected by the transition. The change coincides with ByteDance’s announcement last month, which confirmed Xiaomi CFO Chew Shouzi as the dedicated TikTok CEO. Chew took over for Vanessa Pappas, who was only in the position on an interim basis since Kevin Mayer left the role after only four months. Mayer left due to political difficulties in the United States, though TikTok has faded from focus during Biden’s administration.