China’s tech workers face layoff bloodbath amid crackdown, losses

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China’s tech workers face layoff bloodbath amid crackdown, losses

Tens of thousands of workers have been let go amid a regulatory crackdown and overly aggressive expansion.

iQiyi
Chinese tech firms, including video-streaming platform iQiyi, have laid off tens of thousands of employees amid a regulatory crackdown by Beijing [File: Reuters]

By Kyle MullinPublished On 13 May 202213 May 2022

Beijing, China – Rather than a pink slip from his boss, Zhang Wei found out he was about to lose his job at Chinese video streamer iQiyi via a work group chat.

Zhang’s supervisor only confirmed the news after the cuts at the Beijing-headquartered company last December leaked to the media.

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“Although I knew in advance, I still couldn’t believe it,” Zhang, who asked to use a pseudonym, told Al Jazeera.

Zhang is just one of tens of thousands of workers in China’s tech scene who have been laid off following Beijing’s stock price-hammering regulatory crackdown on private enterprise and years of aggressive expansion within the sector that analysts say left some firms overstretched.

Nearly 73,000 workers were let go between July and mid-April alone, according to research by TechNode, a media outlet that covers China’s technology and startup scene. Later in April, lifestyle app Xiaohongshu, often described as China’s version of Instagram, fired about 10 percent of its workforce.

“The causes of not only these layoffs, but also the frozen headcount in many divisions, terminated current hiring and paused internships, are a combination of poor macroeconomic outlook, pressure to focus on profits and cut out unprofitable businesses, and greater regulatory oversight in the sector,” Rui Ma, an angel investor and the founder of the Tech Buzz China podcast, told Al Jazeera.

Worse may be yet to come.

Alibaba and Tencent, the two titans of the Chinese internet, are making plans to let go of tens of thousands of employees combined this year, according to a report published in March by Reuters, which cited anonymous sources close to the firms.

Alibaba headquarters
Alibaba and Tencent are reportedly preparing to let go of tens of thousands of employees [File: Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Gao “Noah” Zihao,  co-founder of Beta, a headhunting firm that has worked with China’s major tech players, said many tech companies had overstretched themselves by attempting to “duplicate their business models” in new industries, pointing to food delivery platform Meituan’s r

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