Commentary: How well did TikTok CEO Chew Shou Zi hold out against US Congress grilling?

Chew maintained his composure, so there are no viral videos of him losing it.

At times Chew’s politeness seemed too deferential, however. When interrupted, he would respectfully yield. With a bit more assertiveness, he could have attempted to quickly complete his points and avoid being led into carefully set traps.


On rare occasions those testifying to Congress win some praise. Dr Anthony Fauci did during COVID-19 hearings. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman did during former president Donald Trump’s impeachment. Their testimony shares common features: It gets described as direct and candid.

Chew was described instead as a “good dancer with words” by Democratic Representative Tony Cardenas. Choosing words like a lawyer or publicist only goes so far in a room full of lawmakers.

A clip that drew criticism showed Representative Neal Dunn asking if ByteDance spied on Americans. Chew replied, “I don’t think that spying is the right way to describe it”.

Chew highlighted that the company planned to implement a new data storage plan called “Project Texas”, described with a great soundbite: “American data is stored on American soil by an American company, overseen by American personnel”.

Lawmakers pounced, pointing out that the plan only addresses how American users’ data will be handled in the future, not the terabytes already collecting from the app’s 150 million American users.

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