Who is Shou Zi Chew, the TikTok CEO testifying before Congress?
As pressure builds for a national ban on the video-based social media platform TikTok, the company’s leadership is in a full court press to persuade lawmakers against taking sweeping action to restrict access to the application.
And as Congress weighs security concerns with the Chinese-linked social media company, its CEO Shou Zi Chew is being grilled by House lawmakers on Thursday in his first appearance on a congressional panel.
Chew, a 40-year-old Singaporean who is a former Goldman Sachs banker and Harvard Business School graduate, has given a number of interviews to U.S. media outlets in recent weeks as Congress and states across the U.S. have banned TikTok on government devices and calls for a national ban pick up steam.
Chew’s path to lead TikTok went through the University College London, where he studied economics, as well as completing his mandatory military service in Singapore. After leaving a job at Goldman Sachs, he moved to the U.S. and got his master’s degree at Harvard.
Chew said he was introduced to ByteDance — the Beijing-based company that owns TikTok that is now at the center of the controversy surrounding the platform — when he helped secure one of the first investments in the company during his time at a venture capital firm.
Before being appointed CEO of TikTok in 2021, Chew, a native English speaker, spent five years at Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone company. He initially joined ByteDance in 2021 as its finance chief, but just two months later was moved to be the head of TikTok.
The White House and lawmakers alike have criticized ByteDance’s connection with the Chinese government. Officials worry that the platform poses a national security threat, putting American data at risk of being given to the Chinese government.
Chew, who rarely featured in the media before the latest push to defend the platform, has argued that TikTok operates independently of the Chinese government. The company says it stores data about U.S. users on servers in America and Singapore. It has also said that the Chinese government has not asked for the company to produce user data and it would not comply if asked to do so.
Chew stressed in a letter to lawmakers last June that he is a “Singaporean based in Singapore.”
Chew’s testimony before the House comes just after the White House demanded the Chinese owners of TikTok to sell their stake in the company or face a ban in the U.S. Chew said last week that a sale of the platform would not solve security concerns that U.S. lawmakers point to.
The TikTok chief executive is expected to issue a promise to protect American data to lawmakers on Thursday, saying in prepared remarks that ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country.
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