Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

On March 23, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew had his own 15 minutes of fame on the video-sharing platform. Lawmakers’ questions during a congressional committee hearing about security concerns in relation to TikTok and its unclear relationship with the Chinese government displayed a lack of understanding of the platform. Chew’s responses went viral. But while he received a sympathetic reception on the app to his congressional grilling, his troubles in Washington remain very real. He is the face of TikTok’s defense against the threat of a ban by the Biden Administration, which is skeptical of the platform’s ability to resist demands by the Chinese state for sensitive user data.

As skepticism and security concerns grow, TikTok’s popularity—and to some extent Chew’s own—among millions of young users, many of them voters, may be its primary defense against the platform’s becoming perhaps the biggest corporate victim yet of America’s deepening rivalry with China.

Perrigo is a TIME staff writer

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