Why Margaret Zhang Leaving Vogue China Is Controversial

The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty” - Inside
Photo: Cindy Ord/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Margaret Zhang spent three years as the editorial director of Vogue China and now she’s leaving (her Condé Nast contract ends this spring and won’t be renewed). Zhang announced her departure today on social media with a letter saying she is excited to “jump into the next chapter of my career.” Why so soon?

Anna Wintour chose Zhang in 2021 to lead the publication during an era when Vogue was bringing more creative diversity and digital savviness to the brand. “Margaret creates content on so many different platforms and brings a new perspective and voice to Vogue China,” Wintour said in 2021 when she announced Zhang’s hiring. Zhang was among talents like Edward Enninful, former editor-in-chief of British Vogue, who, like her, didn’t have a traditional career in journalism before becoming an editor of an international edition of Vogue. (Before Vogue, Zhang was a Chinese Australian fashion influencer whose claim to fame came from being featured in campaigns on an Australian reality series, as well as her influencing skills that led her to take on photography, styling, filmmaking, and creative direction.)

Fans of Zhang’s work at Vogue China took to X to post her covers, like the September 2023 issue featuring He Cong that was dedicated to the Asian Games in Hangzhou, and the March 2022 “Every Body” issue highlighting Asian models of all sizes. They also expressed their disappointment: “Margaret Zhang brought a diversified artistic flavor to Vogue China that made Vogue China trump all Vogues,” wrote one. Another fan of her work posted, “She’s been the editor-in-chief since she was 27 years old in 2021, making her the youngest in the history of Vogue. It was a joy to see her fresh mind run the publication!!”

Zhang included in her letter that she was “immensely proud of the radical evolution that we have driven at Vogue China over the past three years, expanding its impact from its print beginnings to becoming a multimedia bridge for creative culture — China to the world, the world to China. We have celebrated record growth in Vogue video, award-winning audio-programming, and the highest engagement events in the history of Vogue China.”

While she changed the landscape and introduced new creative strategies, new faces, initiatives, and more, her time at Vogue China also came with some controversy. According to Australia’s The Sydney Morning Herald, during Zhang’s tenure, she was criticized by Condé Nast China’s former president, Sophia Liao, because she “saw China through a Western lens.” Liao also said that Zhang was a “dangerous” person to lead Vogue China “because she has been growing up and living in Australia and overseas, her understanding of China is too superficial and limited.” According to a WWD article, Huasheng Media founder Chuxuan Feng called her “a foreign influencer girl who doesn’t know about media.” Huasheng Media owns Chinese versions of publications including T: The New York Times Style Magazine and Kinfolk. An article in the Financial Times over the weekend noted that Zhang had complained about such personal attacks. Vogue declined to comment.

Zhang’s successor has not yet been announced, but Wintour reportedly sent a message to Vogue China’s team saying it’s her “top priority to find a new visionary leader without delay.”

Why Margaret Zhang Leaving Vogue China Is Controversial