Changpeng Zhao is 44.
He has spent more than 30 years in Canada where he grew up.
He is a Canadian citizen who founded the largest cryptocurrency trading platform in the world in terms of trading volume.
Binance.com is a sprawling firm, present in many countries around the world, either directly or through subsidiaries. Zhao has built a company that plays a pivotal role in the new economy that is the crypto industry. Many retail investors in the U.S. use Coinbase (COIN ) to buy or sell crypto. Many others around the world use Binance even more to trade their coins, including bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH), the top two cryptocurrencies by market value.
The rise of Binance has made Zhao a billionaire and one of the central figures in cryptocurrencies. He is with Sam Bankman-Fried, another young crypto billionaire, in the vanguard of the industry.
‘We Are Being Pegged as a Chinese Company’
In January, he sat on a fortune valued at $96 billion. But this has diminished with the fall in the prices of cryptocurrencies, which have been going through a difficult period for several months after the euphoria of the end of 2021. Zhao’s fortune is now estimated at $29.6 billion as of September 1, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
This crypto evangelist, who regularly travels to make the case for the industry, has become such an inescapable figure, that he is now only known by his initials CZ. He is omnipresent on social networks where he is always ready to answer questions from fans and critics of crypto as well as to comment on news and issues in the sector.
He and Binance are pushing for more transparency in an industry still held back by public mistrust. Basically, it’s hard to miss CZ and Binance.
It seems that all this energy and activity does not protect him from racism, in particular from anti-Asian racism which has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic.
CZ, who was born in China, seems fed up. The Chief Executive Officer has just made it known by denouncing on Twitter the fact that his company is still presented as a Chinese firm, which it is not. And as he points out, Beijing currently bans most cryptocurrency exchange platforms.
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“And now we are being pegged as a ‘Chinese company’, even though crypto exchanges are explicitly banned in China,” blasted CZ on Twitter on September 1, after a Twitter user pointed out to him that a Fortune India article portrayed him and Binance as Chinese or of Chinese origin.
“Just because of my Chinese ethnicity? I thought we (our civilization) is better than that. I have been a Canadian for 30+ years. 😂,” CZ added.
Childhood in China But Adulthood in Canada
Basically for CZ, it is because he is Asian heritage that he is presented as Chinese. If he had been of another color, he would have been presented as a Canadian.
CZ’s anger was welcomed by many users on Twitter, with some going so far as to say that they contacted Fortune to complain.
“I was completely shocked when I read this!! I had sent a mail to Fortune India about this. Very much disappointed with this article,” commented the user who alerted him in the first place.
“They fear what they can’t control… And Binance was adopted for all the world 🌎 like the best exchange so if the people of all world love Binance it’s borderless,” said another user.
“I had to retweet this one🌏,” commented another user.
CZ was born in China on September 10, 1977, in the coastal province of Jiangsu, located north of Shanghai. Both of his parents were teachers. His father moved to Canada in 1984, after being accepted at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver to resume his studies. He was joined by CZ, then a teenager, and his wife after the Chinese government crackdown on the Tianamen Square protests in 1989.
After he graduated from McGill University in Montreal, CZ joined Bloomberg where he developed futures trading software. He was made head of the Bloomberg Tradebook Futures Research & Development team but left the company in 2005 and moved to Shanghai to start Fusion Systems, which provides some of the fastest high frequency trading systems for professionals.
It was in Shanghai where he heard about Bitcoin for the first time.
After a stint at Blockchain.com as head of technology, he created Binance in 2017. The company registered in the Cayman Islands in 2017 and in the Seychelles in 2019. CZ had promised that the firm will announce where it’s headquartered soon.