Who really is TikTok boss Shou Zi Chew under pressure

A solid CV

Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, spent five difficult hours on Thursday, March 23, facing the elected members of the American Congress who bombarded him with questions: influence, protection of personal data, links of the parent company, ByteDance, with the Chinese Communist Party… the 40-year-old boss was regularly interrupted by elected inquisitors. While TikTok is again threatened by the American administration to sell its activities in the United States, Shou Zi Chew has promised to host all the information related to the 150 million American users in the servers of the Texas company Oracle , without succeeding in convincing a particularly hostile Congress.

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Born in Singapore, raised in the United Kingdom before graduating from Harvard University in the United States, Shou Zi Chew began his career in an investment fund looking for Chinese nuggets: he notably bet on Alibaba, jd .com, Didi, Xiaomi… and ByteDance, a start-up that had just created an information aggregator. A few years later, in 2016, ByteDance created Douyin, aimed at the Chinese market, and its international version, TikTok. Employed by the smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi, whose IPO he organized in 2018, Shou Zi Chew was poached by ByteDance shortly after, first as chief financial officer, then as CEO of TikTok in 2021.

A Singaporean between China and the West

TikTok regularly insists on the nationality of its CEO as a guarantee of its independence: although fluent in Mandarin, Shou Zi Chew is not Chinese, he is Singaporean. Singapore is an autonomous city-state in Southeast Asia, where the inhabitants come from various diasporas, including a large community of Chinese origin. The island maintains close ties with China, especially commercial ones. Shou Zi Chew’s independence from TikTok is limited, however: He reports to ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming and Liang Rubo, the founder’s former comrade and current CEO of the group. “The Chinese government does not own or control ByteDance. It’s a private company.” tried to defend Shou Zi Chew in front of American elected officials.

A discreet boss

At the head of TikTok since April 2021, Shou Zi Chew has long remained in the background, leaving his number two, Australian Vanessa Pappas, to answer questions from senators or participate in conferences. He is also very discreet about his private life: on his TikTok account, which has only a few thousand subscribers, Shou Zi Chew only posts videos of visits to group employees, and his Instagram account is empty. Married to an American of Taiwanese origin, he describes himself as a family man who enjoys playing golf and reading books on physical theory.

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