Tech

The TikTok Showdown: A Legal Battle of Epic Proportions

In a bold move shaking the tech world, TikTok and eight prominent creators have taken the US government to court over the controversial “sell or ban” legislation. This legal showdown marks a pivotal moment in internet history, with CEO Zhou Shouzi leading the charge in a high-stakes legal duel.

The TikTok community is abuzz as the company and creators stand united against what they see as a breach of constitutional rights. With Zhou Shouzi at the helm, TikTok is gearing up for a legal fight like no other, ready to challenge the fate of the divisive legislation head-on.

As the courtroom drama unfolds, Zhou Shouzi’s strategic prowess and unwavering resolve take center stage. His calculated responses and decisive actions aim to sway the tide of the legal battle, showcasing his leadership and adaptability under pressure.

With the future of TikTok hanging in the balance, this legal saga not only tests the boundaries of tech regulation but also underscores the growing influence of social media platforms in global politics. Zhou Shouzi’s defiance in the face of adversity sets the stage for a dramatic clash between innovation and regulation in the digital age.

On June 20 local time, TikTok and eight TikTok creators jointly submitted their first court brief to the US court, accusing the US government of TikTok “sell or ban” bill is the result of “political bewitchment”, which violates the spirit of the US Constitution and should be overturned.

The action, seen by foreign media as “the beginning of the most influential legal battle in the history of the Internet in the United States”, is the beginning of TikTok’s counterattack against the US “sell it or ban it” bill.

Sold or closed, Shou Zi Chew led the TikTok, once again reached the crossroads of fate.

In May this year, the ban bill on the popular social media was quickly landed in the US Congress, and the regulatory waves were roaring through the US Congress. The day after the Senate passed it, Biden immediately signed it into law. Judging from this situation, more and more users began to pessimistic estimate that after 180 days, TikTok will be removed from the US app store.

In the runoff year of the change of government, the more serious political atmosphere cannot be ignored: under the obvious ban bill, there is a huge undercurrent of public opinion on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Under the unprecedented challenge of life and death, Shou Zi Chew, surrounded by a dense schedule, flew to the United States as early as the bill passed the House of Representatives.

There was only one last option left for Shou Zi Chew – the Jedi counterattack.

On May 7 local time, TikTok filed a 67-page complaint claiming that the Protection of Americans from Foreign Adversaries’ Control of Apps Act, which Biden signed into effect, violates the First Amendment. “For the first time ever, Congress has enacted a law that imposes a permanent national ban on a single specific speech platform and prohibits every American from participating in a unique online community with more than 1 billion users worldwide.

Without a doubt, this unprecedented struggle has entered a decisive stage.

Since the famous congressional hearing in March last year, Shou Zi Chew, who used to hide behind the scenes, has become increasingly high-profile, appearing frequently on red carpet shows, music festivals, concerned about pop culture, and speaking out on his platform, telling users: “Don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere.

It’s a survival tactic known as the charm offensive. Singapore-born Shou Zi Chew leads a company from China, surrounded by wolves, tigers and leopards, to take a gentle approach to preaching. He tells people that if you give TikTok a chance, the garden will be better. He can’t play games like his Silicon Valley peers, and any dangerous topic about the company is led by him to tell a story. Mocking the media is his eternal no-go zone. After walking on the political tightrope for so long, any public relations misstep could push him and TikTok into the mud.

Now, an even more dangerous battle for survival has begun. In the coming months, TikTok will be able to navigate the jungle of the jackals, testing not only the strategy of Shou Zi Chew and his team, but also how to find a foothold in the gap between the US election and the Sino-US game.

One pair of fifty

About five minutes before the hearing began, Shou Zi Chew stepped into the room. At the side of a table several meters long, he sat in a wooden chair, wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and light blue checked tie.

This is a uniform style that fits the style of Washington business, and a sense of surprise grew when the long-awaited reporters saw Shou Zi Chew appear.

It is extremely rare for a foreign company president to attend such a large-scale congressional hearing as required by an executive order. Before Shou Zi Chew, the last person to appear in the Capitol chamber was Toyota President Akio Toyoda as far away as February 2010. At that time, in the face of the “bombardment” from under the seat, the Toyota head who used to have a reserved external image was unable to resist, and he wept many times in public and apologized frequently.

The extreme regularity of his dress suggests that Shou Zi Chew and the TikTok behind him have carefully prepared for this fateful hearing. In the week before the meeting, he spent several hours rehearsing every day to sharpen and polish his speech to the greatest extent. There are also professionals who help practice, playing the different questioning styles of different lawmakers. In various angles and scenes, Shou Zi Chew is familiar with the “battlefield”, and tries to reduce his strangeness and panic in these drills.

Mr. Chew’s efforts are all about March 23, 2023. Across from him sat dozens of ready Republican lawmakers. “My kid is running a marathon, I know how long it will take, and you’ve been sitting here about that long today.” Before the aggressive questioning began, one lawmaker sent Shou Zi Chew this warning.

The collision, or clash, between a technology company from the Far East and 50 congressional representatives from all over the United States is inevitable. Prejudice and hostility are palpable, and Shou Zi Chew, who is sitting upright at the table, clasps his hands tightly together, but within a few minutes, he has picked up the water glass printed with the TikTok logo several times, sipping sip after sip to ease his emotions.

A hearing on the future of the TikTok began in Shou Zi Chew’s single-handedly response. During the five-hour questioning, Shou Zi Chew was questioned and speculated by lawmakers with obvious hostility more than once, and his answers were frequently rudely interrupted. A New York Times reporter who witnessed the entire hearing recalled afterwards: “I’ve covered many tech CEO hearings, and this was probably the sharpest one I’ve ever seen.

After the hearing, Shou Zi Chew sat in the Capitol to argue with a congressman, and video clips of the lawmakers’ various “funny questions”, such as “Will TikTok connect to home Wi-Fi?” went viral on the Internet worldwide.

For TikTok, this is far from the beginning of the test, nor is it the end. Since Trump’s failed ban in 2020, US politicians have been staring at the software all the time. With the US election in 2024 looming, the relevant issue is once again on the table. On March 5 this year, the US House of Representatives received a bill called the Protection of Americans from Foreign Adversaries’ Control of Applications Act. Eight days later, it passed the voting session with a large vote in the House of Representatives. After the results were released, the House broke out in cheers and applause.

The bill would prohibit the “distribution, maintenance, or provision of Internet hosting services for applications controlled by foreign adversaries,” but everyone knows that this is almost a tailor-made strike tool, so much so that the term “TikTok Stripping Act” is widely used.

However, while the outside world is still optimistic that there is still room for game TikTok re-deliberation in the Senate, the House of Representatives a month later included it in a package of aid bills, took the express train of aid to Ukraine and aid to Israel, and stripped the bill to pass the Senate and House of Representatives quickly, and submitted to the White House, signed by Biden.

TikTok has been operating locally in the United States for more than two years, how to go in the future, this bill frames two directions: it will be divested from the parent company and sold to other companies within 100 days; or it will be banned in the United States.

We aren’t going anywhere!” Shou Zi Chew, whose sideburns were mixed with some white hair, responded on behalf of the TikTok. Realizing that this is the most targeted bill in the series of sanctions launched by the US government to date, he understands that the passage of legislation now, whether it is the strength of sanctions or the cost of resistance, will be infinitely magnified.

The most challenging CEO

In the era of rapid updating of digital technology, China’s Internet platform companies have unavoidably embarked on a journey to sea. Carefully observe the “goose formation” of the head of these technology brands. In the TikTok of the United States, the risk-free efforts made for the test of life and death have accumulated over time and once implemented the so-called “strictest risk control”, which is particularly worthy of attention from the outside world.

Compared with other purely cross-border e-commerce companies’ domestic counterparts, the risk of regulatory challenges facing the TikTok is even greater. Much of this stems from political factors, far beyond the scope of business. This also sets up an uncontrollable difficulty for Shou Zi Chew’s work with little reference experience. In an unfamiliar field that goes beyond the ability of international companies to adjust their operations, some media have generalized that Shou Zi Chew’s position is “the most challenging role in the world today”.

In recent years, the US Congress has increasingly targeted antitrust activities on digital platforms, and from the perspective of Washington, technology companies already have a poor image. But Shou Zi Chew is different. Compared with the internet bosses who once sat in the same chair for marathon cross-examination, from Meta CEO Zuckerberg, to Apple head Tim Cook, to Google’s head Sundar Pichai, the level of hostility and rhetoric encountered by both sides is simply not on the same level.

Mark Zuckerberg, the genius geek who founded the social platform Facebook, is often joked about the fact that in April 2018, during the sensational scandal of the company’s misuse 87 million user privacy data for political advertising, he came to the House of Representatives for an almost torture-like questioning.

During the meeting, Zuckerberg’s facial expression remained stiff throughout the meeting, and even the blink of an eye became a little slow under the stern atmosphere. No one could see that the Harvard dropout with a net worth of over 100 billion dollars was surrounded by 360 degrees without dead ends, and was under tremendous external pressure.

After Zuckerberg’s mechanical drinking action was posted on the Internet by the live media, the proud man was also ridiculed by the public as “robot” or “lizard man”.

It was not until four years later, on a podcast, that Mr. Zuckerberg finally responded to the host’s ridicule of “robot terriers,” lamenting that the Senate hearings did not emphasize the human environment, and that “if you’re there for six or seven hours, expression management will inevitably get out of hand.

When the protagonist at the hearing table changed to a yellow face, the serial shells would only come more violently and densely. Surrounded by a group of powerful controllers in the world’s most developed countries, the giant ship under TikTok sailed into the countercurrent of the undercurrent, and the huge waves at the head were absolutely likely to capsize it. As a navigator standing at the head of the tide, it was inevitable that anyone would be nervous.

It is fair to say that under the premise that he was doomed to fail to convince Congress, Shou Zi Chew did not make any fatal mistakes during the five-hour high-pressure response, and has successfully completed his task as CEO.

My name is Shou Zi Chew. I was born in Singapore to Singaporean parents. I served in Singapore, went to university in the UK and then went to business school here [in the US]. That’s where I met my wife, who was born a few miles away.

Unlike the pushy atmosphere of the audience, Shou Zi Chew’s opening remarks were full of warmth – he tried to emphasize his identity, a native Singaporean who received higher education in the United States and the United States.

His father worked in the construction industry and his mother was a bookkeeper. As a third-generation Singaporean, Shou Zi Chew attended Overseas Chinese High School, one of the best top schools in the local area, when he was a teenager. It seems that his step-by-step excellent straight-A student image has long been doomed.

According to Shou Zi Chew, who was invited to give a speech to the graduates of his alma mater, University College London, in 2022, “I grew up on the small island of Singapore and always wanted to see as much of the world as possible”. Perhaps it is an adventurous idea that all young people who are eager to pursue their dreams will have. After retiring at the age of 20, Shou Zi Chew took his first step into the world, carrying his bags and coming to London’s Gower Street.

In 2006, Shou Zi Chew graduated from University College London with an economics degree and immediately became an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Two years later, faced with the question of “empowering or delaying his career”, he made an anxious trade-off and decided to quit the US to study for an MBA at Harvard Business School. He also met his future wife Gao Weiyan, a Chinese elite who made a name for himself in the US technology industry, during a summer internship at Facebook.

After that, he became the China partner of Digital Sky Technology (DST), a venture capital fund from Moscow, and then took the position of chief financial officer of Xiaomi. Everything seemed like a career path for a young talent in the financial industry.

The turning point in breaking the mold came after he joined DST – becoming a partner at the then-obscure fund house, flying solo from Singapore to Beijing, Shou Zi Chew embarked on his venture capital career and a new chapter in his career deeply integrated with China’s tech industry.

Shou Zi Chew once revealed that his life creed is “everything has to work hard”. In the early days of China Mobile’s Internet take-off, as a partner in DST’s China region for several years, Shou Zi Chew has been one of the most active and active venture capitalists in the circle. In order to refine the observation of various entrepreneurial projects, he entrusted people to make connections. Through various channels, he met more than 300 entrepreneurs every year. By the time he received Lei Jun’s invitation in 2015, Shou Zi Chew had conducted in-depth research on more than 1,000 Chinese Internet companies.

The almost unimaginable fantasy of a career is a practical payoff for Shou Zi Chew’s belief that he “doesn’t want to waste a second of his life”. Shou Zi Chew is credited with using vengeful diligence to get on the rocket to promotion.

The first half of this comment originated from Lei Jun. In early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic had not yet spread overseas on a large scale, Shou Zi Chew traveled around the world in Hong Kong, Switzerland and South East Asia to negotiate for Xiaomi’s next step and the next step of business. In exchange, the boss praised him: “Shou Zi Chew has a kind of diligence like revenge against the world.

The second half comes from Shou Zi Chew himself. Asked by an interviewer why he was so quick to join a fund company that had not yet grown into a “universe” in the early days of his career, with his star-studded internship, resume and college background, Shou Zi Chew borrowed a famous quote from Sheryl Sandberg, the former chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook: “If you’re told you’re going to get on a rocket, don’t ask where you should sit, just get on it first.

The shining aura of a “professional golden boy” and the rumors of a fortune with an annual salary of 700 million yuan may mask the gritty character forged by his years of hard military training and business struggle: he has absolutely extraordinary dedication to the goals set by the plan, and he is an uncompromising jungle hunter.

After taking the helm of TikTok Shuaiyin, Shou Zi Chew showed a vigorous management style internally: many employees witnessed that he cut through the mess quickly, dealt with the tension between himself and the company’s COO Pappas, and asked the latter to reorganize the team; he made quick decisions and issued product feedback with a strong personal imprint. People from Hong Kong technology information companies who have interacted with TikTok also told “Look at the World” that Shou Zi Chew has shown relatively strong courage in promoting internal restructuring, and has a clear style difference with the US technology companies. He also formed a more effective public policy department to bring as many TikTok voices and information as possible to Capitol Hill.

In addition to visiting Congress and attending the Hongmen Banquet in person, Shou Zi Chew has also become a frequent visitor to the Senate, trying to do everything in his power to invite multiple senators to meet and lobby each of the representatives who are willing to sit down and chat, in the hope of preventing the bill from being passed.

The driving force for all struggles already has the answer in Shou Zi Chew’s mind. In the 1960s, Shou Zi Chew’s father founded a construction company that was a huge commercial success. Then it was mismanaged and the business was in trouble. During the twists and turns of his father’s company from prosperity to decline, Shou Zi Chew has already set his own goal: in his life, he must participate in building a great enterprise and make it invincible.

The perfect “biculturalist

In 2019, Xiaomi participated in the Davos Forum for the first time. At this extremely high-profile global economic event, Lei Jun presented Shou Zi Chew with the highlight opportunity to issue a “globalization declaration” on behalf of Xiaomi. In his speech at the forum that year, he said: “We need to think like locals, we need to abide by the rules like locals, and we need to invest like locals.

Looking at the Chinese venture capital circle at that time, under the tide of the emerging Internet, Shou Zi Chew was without a doubt one of the most convincing candidates to represent China’s science and technology enterprises and demonstrate such a firm and open attitude.

In Shou Zi Chew, one can find most of the characteristics of the eastern professional elite who went global: he was tireless, during his tenure at Xiaomi, he recorded every investor he met in an Excel spreadsheet throughout the IPO process, and finally listed 1,500 lines; he took advantage of the 24-hour day to the extreme, and left work early at 2 am. Capital markets people who have interacted with Shou Zi Chew have also revealed that he can minimize his sleep and meal time for a work task.

In the early stages of preparing for Xiaomi’s listing in Hong Kong, unlike the previous habit of sharing very little personal information, an excited Shou Zi Chew posted a picture on his social platform account, which read: In the next year, even sleeping is a waste of time.

At 4 or 5 in the morning, he left Beijing in the cold winter to catch a plane, and at 10 in the morning, he showed up on time at the meeting site in Central, Hong Kong, which became the norm in his work. During the year, Shou Zi Chew rented a room in a hotel near the Securities Supervision Commission, whose sole purpose was to provide a bath. Shou Zi Chew often went back to the office after work to take a shower and then return to work. Every weekend, he stayed in the office, together with the finance, legal and public relations teams and investment banks and law firms, revising the prospectus documents repeatedly.

At that time, Xiaomi’s latest mobile phone product sales performance was poor, and under the influence of the capital markets financing environment becoming severe, its valuation scale changed many times, from the peak of 100 billion US dollars to more than 50 billion US dollars.

Looking back at the video materials that have been made public now, Lei Jun did not say much after making this decision, and went back to his room to sleep with his clothes on – after receiving the last investment banking order, Shou Zi Chew sat in the chair blankly, and his eyes were lost.

Shou Zi Chew, who was under great pressure, was reluctant to travel between Beijing and Hong Kong day and night. In the end, the prospectus he submitted to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange was 600 pages thick. “I have thought about every word in the prospectus several times.

In July 2018, Xiaomi went public, becoming the first listed company with “different rights for the same share” on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, which was also the largest IPO in the Hong Kong stock market at that time. Shou Zi Chew, who had led the entire listing process, attended the bell ringing scene as CFO under the specially enlarged version of the gong, standing beside Lei Jun, and the two gave a thumbs up.

It is not enough to observe and think about valuable business objects in an investment career, and then invest heavily in them. Joining them and working together to change the world is Shou Zi Chew’s greater ambition. He has long studied the development of China’s mobile Internet, and in the day-to-day high-intensity industry battle, he has personally verified the rationality and correctness of this vision.

An investor once recalled in the book that he once leaned over Shou Zi Chew’s notes and immediately sighed: “The notes he recorded during the high-speed Q & A can almost be printed out and published directly, which reflects his intelligence beyond ordinary people and extremely rigorous logical thinking.

Hugo Barra, a former vice president of Android product management at Google who worked with Shou Zi Chew at Xiaomi, described Shou Zi Chew, a former financial colleague and a key player in the company’s strategic decision-making, as the perfect “biculturalist” who grew up in both Chinese and American languages and cultures. “Objectively speaking, he is a better fit than anyone I have met in the Chinese business community to be a double executive in a Chinese company that wants to become a global giant, both at home and abroad.

TikTok provides Shou Zi Chew with a high-fit platform to make big plans. “After 18 years away from home, based in my hometown of Singapore” – In March 2021, Shou Zi Chew emptied all his social platform content except TikTok account.

At that time, TikTok already had an unimaginable global influence, and the explosive growth of this platform in Europe and the United States was unexpected even for the internal employees of the company at that time. More and more local users in the United States frequently clicked on this black background music note icon in their daily lives, and gradually gathered into another new force that is difficult to ignore on the emerging platform.

When the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly hit in early 2020, more people were forced to socialize from home, pushing the expansion of TikTok to new heights. One statistic that is still worthy of the amazement of many internet observers is that in March of that year alone, the number of TikTok downloads exceeded 100 million, and the total number of users reached a staggering billion.

The North American market clearly provided a crucial boost. Remember that at the time, TikTok had about 50 million DAUs in the United States, and they had become the largest source of income in TikTok.

However, under the background of the increasingly intensified geopolitical game, the ubiquitous political risk of major powers began to build up momentum in the dark and became a barrier to the smooth development of TikTok in the United States.

Regulators have filed two charges against the TikTok, pointing to national security risks that are enough to touch the sensitive nerves of Washington – even arguing that the short video app, which is in line with the trend of “Generation Z” young people, has the potential of being targeted by other countries to interfere in the US election.

In the face of the Trump administration’s executive order to either sell its US business to Microsoft or shut down its operations, the parent company has given a clear and persistent attitude, as founder Zhang Yiming said in an internal letter after the incident: It does not agree with the US decision to sell TikTok US business and does not give up exploring any possibility.

Shou Zi Chew, the protagonist of our story, has taken the helm of the TikTok ship in such a “darkest hour” with a dream career of the past decade. In August 2021, CFO Shou Zi Chew stepped down from that role and became the full-time CEO of TikTok.

Out of the Jungle

Compared with his TikTok former CEO, Shou Zi Chew is the person in charge, the one with the least experience in product operation and R & D management, and takes office in a sensitive period. Almost no one thinks that waiting for Shou Zi Chew will be a beautiful job.

Inevitably, clouds are gathering fast, TikTok the U.S. market is about to enter the unpredictable thunderstorm zone – a protracted struggle for survival, just as the Singaporean soldier Shou Zi Chew faced 20 years ago when he was training for survival in the strange and harsh Borneo jungle.

It is no exaggeration to describe the situation of this company in the eye of the storm and Shou Zi Chew as “perilous”.

Today TikTok’s parent company has regional headquarters in Singapore and Los Angeles, and 60% of the company’s shares are held by large American institutional investors such as Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic Investment. But these actual operating conditions are still difficult to dispel the vigilance and doubts of the US Congress. The latter is more willing to believe that the vast amount of data held by TikTok will become a means for it and its parent company to harm the privacy rights of American users.

The pattern of the great power game is becoming clearer and clearer, the concept of national security is widely mentioned, and the concept of TikTok as a potential network surveillance tool is vigorously promoted.

The external environment is changing and uncertainty is being amplified, and Shou Zi Chew clearly realizes that in the foreseeable future, TikTok will pay more compliance and lobbying costs in the US market and globally – to be more closely tied to the deeply connected client base, to highlight and defend their own values, to reach a stronger consensus, so that the company is less subject to objective factors other than business interference.

In recent years, in North America, TikTok and the US software giant Oracle, launched a data security engineering project “Texas”, and also established an independent US data security company; in Europe, TikTok also has a similar data isolation project “Clover”, for these projects, it alone has an annual operating cost of more than one billion US dollars.

It is obvious that the TikTok under Shou Zi Chew has invested a lot of manpower and money in compliance. According to data security professionals: “TikTok has done almost everything it can in this part.

And Shou Zi Chew himself, with the help of TikTok, a phenomenal star traffic platform, is actively launching his own charm offensive online and offline. Shou Zi Chew, who is nicknamed “Zaddy” by Singaporean netizens, has taken the homonym of “show”. After last year’s hearing, on his TikTok account “shou.time”, he began to frequently share his intimate moments of participating in entertainment activities, casual fun and embarrassing dances with celebrities. He also served as this year’s Met Gala, the honorary chairperson of the New York celebrity party, and became a talking point in the fashion industry.

Perhaps, Shou Zi Chew, who focuses on sharing music festival carnival and food in TikTok, is not so adaptable to breaking his past low-key tradition, but for this young global enterprise to seek more vitality and vitality, these small contrasts are just his initiative to change, the least worth mentioning.

When Shou Zi Chew, who was nervous and kept drinking water, opened his mouth in the 2123 conference hall of the Parliament Building, everything became a little different: in the face of turns of questioning from all directions, he maintained polite restraint and calmness, which should be the precious wealth that 18-year-old Shou Zi Chew learned in the virgin rainforest of Brunei Temburong many years ago.

In 2001, Shou Zi Chew, a high school graduate, was drafted into the army. That year, the “9/11 incident” that shook the world occurred, the security pressure of various countries increased sharply, and the training intensity of the Singapore army was more than ever.

Leaving the base camp in Singapore, he went thousands of kilometers away to the dense wild jungle, cutting down trees with knives, building shelters, picking edible wild yams, catching and killing small animals such as quails and lizards, and surviving alone for five days – in Shou Zi Chew’s memory, it was the most difficult physical training of his life.

After leaving the jungle, he will move forward without hesitation.

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