Just last year, the world’s most valuable startup, ByteDance, was being squeezed from all sides. The Trump administration in the US wanted the Chinese firm, which owns the ubiquitous TikTok video-sharing platform, to get rid of assets. Beijing was cracking down on tech businesses, and India had blacklisted some of its social-media apps.

For all the obstacles, ByteDance kept growing. Now its founder, 38-year-old Zhang Yiming, is among the world’s richest people — a distinction that lately has carried increased risks in China...

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