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Pinduoduo under fire as China turns on its tech titans

January 13, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 24.5%. 1 min read.

People work in the headquarters of Pinduoduo, a rising B2C e-commerce platform, in Shanghai, China Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Pinduoduo's stock price surged 295% in 2020, but a recent death of one worker has spurred online furore in China.

One of China's most prominent e-commerce companies is facing intense public backlash over allegations that it overworks its employees. It's a sign that scrutiny of the country's tech champions is broadening, and could become even more intense.

Chinese social media users had already started calling out the deaths as emblematic of a troublesome work culture at Pinduoduo when a former software engineer at the company catapulted awareness of the problem to new highs.

In a 15-minute video published Sunday on Weibo that garnered millions of likes and thousands of comments, the user Wang Taixu claimed that Pinduoduo fired him after he posted a photo he said showed an ambulance taking away another company employee.

In additional posts on Weibo and other Chinese social media platforms, Wang accused the company of forcing workers at its Shanghai headquarters to work in excess of 300 hours per month, and not providing enough toilets for its employees.

He described Pinduoduo as a company that "forces the smartest people in the country to work" long hours, and expressed his disappointment that the stock has been trading at record levels on Wall Street despite the recent controversies.

The firestorm surrounding Pinduoduo has reignited a long-running debate in China about the tech industry's controversial "996" work culture — a term referring to the practice of working from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m. six days a week that is said to be common among the country's big technology companies and startups.

"The sad death of employees at Pinduoduo provides Beijing with timely and very visceral publicity which it can leverage to further its policy objectives," said Alex Capri, a research fellow at Hinrich Foundation and a visiting senior fellow at National University of Singapore.

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