TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew has mostly kept a low profile since taking the job in 2021 but on Thursday he is testifying before U.S. lawmakers, many of them suspicious of the popular Chinese-owned social media app.
Chew previously worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and investment firm DST, which was an early backer of ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is under pressure from some lawmakers to ban TikTok over national security concerns at a time when U.S.-China relations have deteriorated.
The 40-year-old Chew, who was born and raised in Singapore, was also chief financial officer of Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi and left there to join ByteDance in March 2021, becoming CEO two months later.
U.S. lawmakers grill TikTok CEO over data security, user safety during committee hearing
TikTok pointedly said in a letter to lawmakers last year that Chew was not from China and that the company is independent of ByteDance. Chew served as an officer in the Singaporean military during his mandatory conscription and went on to obtain an economics degree at University College of London and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Chew, who is married and has two children, raised his public profile last year by creating his own TikTok account, @shou.time. He does not allow his children to use TikTok because they are “too young,” he has said in interviews.
His TikTok account, which has more than 18,700 followers, often shows him attending sporting and cultural events, socializing with celebrities and other images typical of most social media users.
He recently posted an appeal to American users of TikTok to help resist any potential ban by Washington.
“This comes at a pivotal moment for us. This could take TikTok away from all 150 million of you,” Chew said on Monday as he prepared to testify to the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.
Chew has told media that TikTok does not threaten U.S. interests. He emphasized in videos that it is a showcase for creators and that 5 million U.S. businesses use TikTok.