Who is Shou Zi Chew, an unknown former banker at the helm of TikTok?

While Chew runs the company from Singapore, according to TikTok, it’s unclear how much decision-making power he has over ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming and other executives at the parent company.

Via AFP

The CEO of the Chinese social network TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, who on Thursday defended the company in the US Congress against charges of undermining national security, is a former banker who quickly grew up in the technology sector.

Born in Singapore 40 years ago and with a humble personality, Chew attended the prestigious Hwa Chong School, before moving to Europe to study economics at University College London.

In the British capital, he worked for Goldman Sachs business bank and completed an internship at Facebook, before obtaining an MBA from Harvard Business School in the US.

After several years at investment firm DST, Chew, who is fluent in Mandarin and English, was appointed CFO of Chinese phone giant Xiaomi in 2015.

In March 2021, he joined ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, and quickly took over the app, after the sudden resignation of his predecessor, American Kevin Mayer.

– Political pressure –

While Chew runs the company from Singapore, according to TikTok, it’s unclear how much decision-making power he has over ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming and other executives at the parent company.

For several months now, the seemingly placid Singaporean executive has had to contend with political pressure mounting on both sides of the Atlantic.

The White House, the European Commission and the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom have banned their officials from using the short video platform, which is very popular among young people.

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The US executive has hinted that if TikTok, which has more than 150 million monthly users in the US, remains under ByteDance’s control, it will be banned.

Many regulators suspect the app gives Beijing access to user data, something TikTok has always denied. US lawmakers also fear that the app could serve as a Trojan horse for the Chinese Communist Party to manipulate public opinion.

“ByteDance is not owned or controlled by the Chinese government,” Qiu said at a congressional hearing Thursday.

– appreciation –

Chew himself isn’t a huge TikTok user: He’s only posted about two dozen videos since last year and has less than 20,000 followers.

Some of the clips on his account show him attending the Superbowl halftime show or dancing with pop star Ciara, but others focus on simpler topics, like a visit to the British Museum or a Halloween costume.

The TikTok CEO is married to investment firm CEO Vivian Cao, a former Harvard Business School classmate he met via email in 2008.

They have two children and are so close that when speaking, “one often finishes the other’s sentences,” according to an article on the school’s website.

Like most Singaporean men, Chew served in the military as a young man, where he distinguished himself so well that he was commissioned, according to the Straits Times.

Under Singapore law, this means he must remain as a reservist in the army until he reaches the age of 50, a decade longer than men of other ranks.

The app has already overtaken YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook in “time spent” by American adults, and is now hot on the heels of Netflix.

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Aileen Morales

"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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