Shen Tong

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Shen Tong
Shen Tong Headshot from Prince Roy.jpg
Shen Tong at 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre in Washington, D.C.
Managing Partner of FoodFutureCo & Founder of Food-X
Personal details
Born1968 (age 50–51)
Beijing, China
Alma materBeijing University
Brandeis University
Harvard University
Boston University

Shen Tong (Simplified Chinese: 沈彤; Hanyu Pinyin: Shěn Tóng) is a Chinese American impact investor, social activist, writer. He has founded business accelerators FoodFutureCo in 2015 with this TEDx Talk.[1] and Food-X in 2014, recognized by Fast Company as one of "The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Food".[2] He was a Chinese dissident, exiled as one of the student leaders in the democracy movement at Tiananmen Square in 1989.[3] One of the People of the Year by Newsweek 1989, Shen Tong became a media, software, social entrepreneur, and investor since the late 1990s. He serves on the board of Food Tank.

Personal background[edit]

Shen Tong was born in 1968, in Beijing. He studied at Peking University from 1986 to 1989, and became one of the student leaders during the 1989 protest in Tiananmen Square. He now lives in New York City along with his son and two daughters.[4] His father and sister Shen Qing both went to Peking University, and his mother is a medical doctor.

Business and media ventures[edit]

Shen Tong moved from Massachusetts to New York in year 2000 focusing more exclusively on businesses with impact and purpose,[5][6] and creative writing. He founded Food-X and FoodFutureCo in New York City working closely with Danielle Nierenberg, Dan Barber, Dorothy Cann Hamilton, Michael Moss, and Michel Nischan. He has several dozen publicly known commercial and impact investments.[7] Shen Tong also helped established Radio Free Asia with Senator Joe Biden's office at the times.

He was the founder and president of the company VFinity,[8] which makes software tools and web applications for multimedia and multilingual search, media production, archiving, and media distribution. The founding idea is based on two patents.[9][10] He is known for his promotion of "Context Media" partially due to his keynote speech at a super session of National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas, 2007.[11] His media businesses in 1990s included TV production B&B Media Production, with the Boston-based foundation he chaired being the lead investor and providing senior management, and investment in bookstore and publishing in Beijing. B&B Media Production had created and produced several highly circulated and acclaimed TV programs, including No.1 rated national weekend prime time show Tell It Like It Is[12] during its first season.[13]

Political and social activism[edit]

In 2011, Shen voiced support for and participated in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.[14] He was considered a main proponent of non-violence,[15] of social media movement[16] with nationally coordinated organization working with broad alliances,[17] for strategic messaging.[18]

He co-chaired the committee on dialog with the government during the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China. He was on Changan Avenue when Chinese troops opened fire on the students. He had earlier obtained a Chinese passport to study biology at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts in the United States, so even though he was wanted by the Chinese government he was able to board a plane six days after the massacre on June 4, 1989. He was able to walk undisguised through police and security officials in the Beijing airport, possibly indicating broader support for the student democracy movement than the Chinese government contended at the time. Some of the biographical works about Shen Tong are Tiananmen Exiles,[19] Standoff at Tiananmen.[20]

Shortly after his arrival in the United States, Shen Tong held a press conference at the Walker Center for Ecumenical Exchange in Newton, Massachusetts, giving the first detailed eye-witness account by a student leader of the Tiananmen Square massacre and of the events that led up to it.

During his studies in Massachusetts he founded the Democracy for China Fund[21] to support democratic movements in China and to promote ideas of political freedom and human rights. American NGO activist Marshall Strauss, and program coordinator Juanita Scheyett-Cheng, helped Shen Tong in founding and operating of the Fund. Coretta Scott King,[22] John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Kerry Kennedy, among other Western political and NGO figures and sinologists were associated with Shen Tong's organization in 1990s. The Congressional Human Rights Delegation to China in 1991 headed by Nancy Pelosi was organized by the Democracy for China Fund with the help and funding from Hong Kong Democrats. His 1992 trip back to China led to the arrest of him and his associates. He was released and immediately exiled after only two months of imprisonment under mounting international pressure especially from the US Congress, the Presidential Campaign of Bill Clinton, the Vatican, and European governments.[23][24] In May 1993, days before the renewal of China's Most Favored Nation trading status by the US government, Shen Tong was scheduled to give a speech at the United Nations press club,[25] but was barred by UN General Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali due to strong protest from the Chinese government. He is known to be also associated with Chinese dissident activists and writers Liu Xiaobo, Wu'er Kaixi, Hu Ping, Ma Jian, Shi Tao, Tibetan exile leader Dalai Lama, Taiwan politician Ma Yingjiu.

Cultural activities[edit]

Shen Tong has served on the board of Food Tank since 2015,[26] Poets & Writers since 2008-2014. He studied biology at Brandeis University on a Wien Scholarship and later in doctorate programs in political philosophy at Harvard University and sociology at Boston University with Harvey Mansfield, Peter Berger, Daniel Bell, Samuel P. Huntington, and Michael Sandel.

In films and television, Shen Tong has been an actor, producer, and film festival sponsor and speaker. Shen Tong starred in Out of Exile[27] with co-star Sharif Atkins in 2000.[28] He worked with Arte, ABC News and Jean-François Bizot's Actuel magazine[29] to produce Clandestins en Chine which premiered in a Paris theater and on Arte in 1992.[30] He co-starred with actress Hu Zongwen in a made-for-TV two parts movie,[31] which received the 6th Fei Tian National Award in 1986.[32]

External video
Booknotes interview with Shen Tong on Almost a Revolution, December 16, 1990, C-SPAN

As a writer, he co-authored the book Almost a Revolution, published in 1990, a memoir of his life growing up in China and his experiences at the Tiananmen Square democracy movement. He carried on a diverse writing career with political commentary, scholarly essays, film critics, literary prose, and movie scripts in English and in Chinese,[33] including publications in China under the pseudonym Rong Di.[34][35] He holds honorary Ph.D. in 1991 from St. Ambrose University.[36]

Shen Tong also founded higher education and culture focused NGO in the mid-1990s, a center in Budapest for liberal scholars, journalists, writers, and educators studying transitional society with funding from Open Society Institute and Central European University of George Soros, a literature review magazine with Chinese dissident poets and writers with support from Allen Ginsberg, Susan Sontag, and Elie Wiesel.


  1. ^ TEDx Manhatton at the New York Times: Feeding the food movement. This TEDx Talk explains his impact investment thesis.
  2. ^ The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Food.
  3. ^ NPR's The Story: After Tiananmen, June, 2007 Archived 2010-06-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ The birth of his 1st daughter Yan was mentioned in this article by Prospect Magazine
  5. ^ Ten Questions with Shen Tong, Founder and Managing Partner of Food Future
  6. ^ Shen Tong: Accelerating Change [Q&A]
  7. ^ CB Investment tracking
  8. ^ Information Week: High Five: Meet Shen Tong, President Of VFinity, Jan, 2007
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ NAB Super Session Keynote Speech: Social Media in the 21st Century by Shen Tong (CEO, VFinity)
  12. ^ 14 years running talk show "Tell It Like It Is" as No.1 rated show in China 2010
  13. ^ CCTV 实话实说节目
  14. ^ The Wall Street Journal profile
  15. ^ RollingStone June 2012
  16. ^ No.7 in World Most Innovative 50 by Fast Company
  17. ^ "99% Solidarity national bus project, ABC News Chicago". Archived from the original on 2014-02-03. Retrieved 2019-07-30.
  18. ^ Fast Company Profile, Occupy Wall Street’s Philosopher-In-Residence
  19. ^ Tiananmen Exiles, by Perry Link & Rowena Xiaoqing He
  20. ^ Standoff at Tiananmen by Eddie Cheng
  21. ^ Use Trade Policy To Pressure China July 21, 1991|By Shen Tong, Chairman, Democracy for China Fund
  22. ^ Shen Tong's speech at the Church where Martin Luther King worked, is republished in Senator Rober Torricelli In Our Own Words: Extraordinary Speeches of the American Century, Simon & Schuster, October 2000
  23. ^ 74 Senators Urge China to Free Activist; Shen Tong, Others Arrested as They Tried to Open Rights Office
  24. ^ The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means For The United States, by Ross Terrill
  25. ^ U.N. Chief Bars Chinese Dissident
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-11-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. ^ IMDB Title: Out of Exile (2001)
  28. ^ Clip of Out Of Exile
  29. ^ fr:Actuel (magazine)
  30. ^ IMDB Title: Clandestins en Chine (TV 1992)
  31. ^ IMDB Title: TV 1985
  32. ^ Chinese National TV Awards Fei Tian
  33. ^ One of Shen Tong's personal blogs
  34. ^ 容迪,“在自我与社群中的自由主义”
  35. ^ 论精英在历史变革中的作用 容 迪
  36. ^ St. Ambrose University Commencement Speakers Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]