The Strategist

Zuckerberg's Romance with China

10/26/2015 - 14:50

Everyone is running after China – among them are politicians, businessmen, investors. Other than that, there is the head of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, who seems to have figured out how to stand out of the pack: the weekend before, he made a 22-minute-long speech in Chinese for students at Tsinghua University. Zuckerberg worked without major hitch, he had neither crib sheets nor wireless. Still, for what the creator of Facebook is trying so hard, if the social network is banned in China?

Robert Scoble via flickr
Robert Scoble via flickr
Mark Zuckerberg was speaking Chinese not the first time. Many will remember that a year ago, in the same Tsinghua, he answered students' questions in broken Mandarin. In September of 2015, Xi Jinping, during his visit to the United States, reportedly spent with the founder of the social network more time than with other entrepreneurs - and all because of that they spoke Chinese.

To what extent Zuckerberg has excelled in Chinese? According to journalists of Quartz, speaking Chinese, and members of the Chinese social network Weibo, the American made some progress since his last speech at Peking University, but the pronunciation is still poor. "Because of the rough American accent, inaccurate use of Mandarin tones and frequent confusion in the similar sounds, it is difficult to understand, - says the publication. - This does not mean that the meaning of the message is lost, but a listener has to pay greater attention to understand him properly." Yet entrepreneur seems to be very pleased with himself.

This pleasure is explained by the fact that the speech in Chinese, albeit clumsy, sent a clear message to local businesses and officials: for China, I stand ready for anything. The authorities of mainland China have blocked Facebook, yet despite of this, the company has plenty of business opportunities there. First of all, it is a social network advertising services: Chinese manufacturers that go into new markets, would use advertising on Facebook to gain the attention of foreign consumers. According to the company's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook business is "thriving" in China.

Zuckerberg's efforts go beyond the demonstrative language learning. In December 2014, a collection of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s speeches proved very useful being in the most prominent place on Zuckerberg’s table during Lu Wei’s visit to a Facebook’s office (Lu Wei is a Chinese official in charge of the regulation of the Internet). The American entrepreneur even told that he recommended the book to his employees.

All of this, says Quartz, resonates in China. Although Chinese do not have access to Facebook, the local media launched the heading "What China says about Facebook». Xi Jinping's visit to the US was covered in the social network. Weibo users reported that they were "touched" by the Mandarin speech of the American entrepreneur. Finally, Zuckerberg himself was voted in Advisory Board of Tsinghua University - a sign that local regulators, normally cautious, trust him. But will it help with lifting the ban on Facebook in China?