TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, will testify before US lawmakers on Thursday amid growing tensions regarding national security concerns and pressure to ban the Chinese-owned social media app. The 40-year-old Singaporean, who previously worked as CFO of Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi, was appointed CEO of ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, in March 2021. Chew has raised his public profile by creating his TikTok account, @shou.time, which has over 18,700 followers, showing him attending cultural events and socializing with celebrities. In interviews, Chew has emphasized that TikTok does not threaten US interests and is a showcase for creators, with 5 million US businesses using the platform.
Last year, TikTok pointedly announced in a letter to US lawmakers that Chew was not from China and that the company is independent of ByteDance. This comes as the Biden administration is under increasing pressure from some lawmakers to ban TikTok over national security concerns amid deteriorating US-China relations. Chew’s appearance before the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee will be his first significant public appearance as TikTok CEO.
Despite TikTok’s efforts to emphasize Chew’s non-Chinese heritage and the platform’s separation from ByteDance, skepticism remains among some US lawmakers. Critics argue that TikTok’s data collection practices pose a threat to US national security, given ByteDance’s rumored links to the Chinese Communist Party. The US government has already taken a hard line on Chinese tech companies, with the Trump administration issuing executive orders last year prohibiting transactions with ByteDance and other Chinese apps.
TikTok has consistently pushed back against such claims, emphasizing that its data is stored in the US and Singapore and that it operates independently of ByteDance. During Chew’s upcoming testimony, he is expected to discuss these issues and highlight TikTok’s value to both creators and businesses in the US. Chew’s testimony may help sway US lawmakers to take a more lenient stance on TikTok, but it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to assuage national security concerns.