Who is Shou Zi Chew? How to Prepare for the TikTok CEO’s Congressional Testimony?

On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appeared before a panel of federal lawmakers to address their concerns about the social media platform’s security in light of its ties to China.

40-year-old Chew, who had previously worked in investment banking and venture capital, became CEO of TikTok roughly two years ago.

Who is Shou Zi Chew?

Chew, who was born in Singapore in January 1983, served in the military for the country’s government during his adolescent years. subsequently uprooted their lives to attend UCL in London, UK. He worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs in London after graduating with a degree in economics.

A few years later, in 2008, he departed from that position to relocate once again, this time to the United States, where he would attend Harvard Business School. In 2009, while still a student at Harvard, Chew interned at Facebook, then a small but promising online social networking startup.

Who is Shou Zi Chew
Who is Shou Zi Chew

Chew has worked for a VC firm in Hong Kong and a consumer electronics maker in Beijing for the past decade after graduating from Harvard in 2010. In 2021, he became the CEO of TikTok and the CFO of ByteDance, the parent business of TikTok. Liang Rubo, the CEO of ByteDance, is Chew’s superior. Chew is a family man, he and his wife, Vivian Kao have two kids.

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What is Chew’s Reputation?

According to Cornell University professor Brooke Erin Duffy, who specializes in social media, fewer Americans are familiar with Chew than with other Silicon Valley social media heavyweights like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

“Chew has been in the background on public discourse until now, so he doesn’t have the same reputation we would associate with the Silicon Valley set, especially Zuckerberg,” she said.

She explained that  “so he doesn’t have the same reputation as someone we know, and (we) don’t have a sense of who he is.” most Americans only learned of Chew this week when he produced a video directed at TikTok’s U.S. fans.

Nonetheless, Chew has earned a solid reputation in both the American and Chinese tech industries. According to Dan Ives, managing director at Wedbush Securities, he was a strong fit for TikTok because of his experience in investment banking and his time at Facebook and DST Global.

Ives remarked that “He gained a lot of respect just by taking that high-risk, in-the-hot seat role at TikTok,” adding that the firm probably thought he was the perfect person to soothe tensions with U.S. politicians.

Why is Chew Appearing Before U.S. Lawmakers?

When it comes to a prospective ban of TikTok, momentum is building in Washington, so the House Committee on Energy and Commerce is grilling Chew. TikTok’s “consumer privacy and data security practices, how the platform affects children, and its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party,” (CCP) are the stated topics of discussion during Thursday’s hearing.

Experts in national security are concerned that the Chinese government would use TikTok, which has 150 million users in the United States, to eavesdrop on its citizens or spread propaganda.

Who is Shou Zi Chew
Who is Shou Zi Chew

Proponents of a ban in the United States have pointed to the possibility that TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance will be coerced into giving the CCP access to user data. TikTok is no longer allowed on government or military-owned devices.

CBS News revealed last week that the Justice Department is looking into ByteDance for possible surveillance on U.S. residents, including journalists. According to a statement released by the corporation, ByteDance “strongly denounced” the acts of the individuals involved and terminated their employment.

No evidence exists that TikTok has shared data with the Chinese government, and TikTok’s data collecting is not more intrusive than that of numerous American apps including YouTube, Instagram, dating, and shopping apps, according to privacy experts. Yet, some national security experts are concerned about TikTok because it is majority-owned by a Chinese corporation.

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