[Exclusive] Zhang Yiming’s Full Internal Letter: ByteDance ‘Understands’ US Decision, Still Aspires to Become Transformative Global Company

On August 3, at 12:40 PM, Beijing local time, ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming sent out an all-staff letter in response to the potential sale of TikTok’s US operations. In the letter, Zhang expressed ByteDance’s continuing ambition to become a global tech force, while suggesting selling TikTok’s US operation might be inevitable.

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Below is the official English version of the full email:

TikTok US Market Update

These past few months have been a challenging time for us all, and over the last week, you’ve probably heard a lot of speculation about TikTok in the media. As you may know, in the current environment, we faced the real possibility of a forced sale of TikTok’s U.S. business by CFIUS or an executive order banning on the TikTok app in the U.S.

While we encounter mounting complexities across the geopolitical landscape and significant external pressure, our response teams have been working around-the-clock and giving up their weekends over the past few weeks to ensure the best possible outcome. Although many details cannot be shared at this stage (due to the confidential nature of pending matters), I would still like to share my thoughts with you on the subject in the spirit of transparency.

For nearly the past year, we have fully cooperated with CFIUS’s review of our musical.ly acquisition from 2017. Although we have made it clear that we are a private company and that we are willing to take additional technical measures needed to further address any concern, CFIUS determined that ByteDance must fully divest TikTok’s US operations. We disagree with CFIUS’s conclusion because we have always been committed to user safety, platform neutrality, and transparency. However, we understand their decision in the current macro environment. To help resolve these issues, we initiated preliminary discussions with a tech company to help clear the way for us to continue offering the TikTok app in the U.S.

In handling this crisis, there are at least three things we must bear in mind:

Our users. TikTok is more than just a ByteDance product. As Vanessa mentioned in her video message yesterday, TikTok has become a community for our global users. That’s why instead of treating TikTok as simply a business, we also see it as a commitment to our user community. As part of this, we will make every attempt to protect the platform’s uniqueness, and hope that users can continue to have an uninterrupted experience.

Our teams. TikTok has attracted a huge pool of talent and brought together so many hard-working employees. This means that, far from being just a workplace, TikTok is also a career for many. In particular, our teams who are caught up in the middle of this crisis are under enormous pressure. I often imagine how things would be much easier for them had they been working for a local company. At the same time, facing challenges together can bring colleagues across different geographies closer and foster mutual understanding. In any decision like this, we always consider the interests and long-term career growth of our team members.

Our company. ByteDance aspires to be a transformative global company, and we remain committed to our vision to “inspire creativity and enrich life,” iterating and improving, just like our products do.

We do not yet know the exact details of what our end solution will be. Candidly, it is unlikely that the level of interest and speculation around TikTok will cease in the short term, and I recognize that this can be very distracting. In spite of these challenges, I hope to see our teams maintain positive morale and composure and focus on the long term, while remaining confident that we will make the best decisions for the company as circumstances evolve and provide our employees support through this difficult time. Offering invaluable services to our users and maintaining our own rapid growth through continuous innovation and resolute decision-making will continue to be our greatest strengths in handling this crisis.

I am confident in the long-term success of TikTok, and believe we can become an even more trusted product. Together, we have created a platform where hundreds of millions of people come for entertainment and connection, bringing joy and information to our users, including our community of creators and artists who create content, build livelihoods and realize value on the platform. TikTok — a window, canvas and bridge for our user community — is already an important part of global culture.

Being a trusted and truly global company still firmly remains our vision. We are one team and our strength, as well as my source of motivation, is in our collaboration, optimism, and resilience during times like these. I am grateful for your unwavering commitment. In times of great change, there is even more to strive for. This will be a challenging and meaningful journey for us all.