Zuckerberg’s down-to-earth China approach sets example

By Kou Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-21 0:53:01

Facebook comeback ‘requires law adherence’

A rare meeting between one of China's top leaders and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shows the country is willing to cooperate with foreign companies in developing the Internet, observers said, adding that Zuckerberg sets a good example for companies seeking business opportunities in China.

Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, met with Zuckerberg on Saturday, expressing his hope that Facebook could "work with Chinese Internet enterprises to enhance exchanges and share experiences," the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Accompanied by other officials, Liu also praised Facebook's "advanced" technology and governance mode.

It is rare for a top Party official in charge of culture and ideology to hold a meeting with a visiting US business leader whose company specializes in social media.

Like Twitter and Google, Facebook is not accessible in the Chinese mainland.

During their meeting, Zuckerberg spoke highly of the progress China has made on the Internet, saying that he would work with his Chinese peers to create a better world in cyberspace, according to Xinhua.

Zuckerberg is in Beijing to attend the three-day China Development Forum, a government-sponsored event attended by business executives and senior government officials. He joined Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba founder Jack Ma on Saturday in a dialogue on business creations.

"Unlike many foreign business elites who hold old-fashioned prejudice against China, Zuckerberg has been friendly to the country, and has shown his willingness to cooperate, which sets a good example for foreign countries hoping to enter China's market," Steven Dong, a professor at the Academy of Media and Public Affairs of the Communications University of China told the Global Times on Sunday.

During a visit to Tsinghua University in 2014, Zuckerberg wowed the world with his Chinese language skills.

On Saturday, the tech tycoon posted a picture of himself jogging in Beijing's smog without wearing a mask, drawing surprise as well as praise for his down-to-earth attitude from the Chinese public.

It is not Zuckerberg's first contact with senior Chinese officials. Lu Wei, head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, visited Facebook's headquarters in Silicon Valley in 2014. Zuckerberg showed him a copy of President Xi Jinping's book The Governance of China on his desk.

Attractive market

Many US Internet giants have been actively seeking business opportunities in China, including search engine Google, which exited the mainland market in a high-profile gesture of defiance against Chinese authorities in 2010.

"The Chinese market is too big for them to ignore, since China has the world's largest online population," Fang Binxing, an expert on network information security at the Chinese Academy of Engineering told the Global Times earlier.

According to data from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), China's online population rose to 668 million in 2015.

"China's Internet industry has quickly developed in the past five years from the government's favorable policies and strong domestic demand. There is no doubt that more foreign companies will enter China's Internet market," Qin An, a cyber-security expert at the Chinese Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy told the Global Times.

Possible return

After Saturday's meeting, there is growing speculation on Chinese social media that Facebook may soon launch its service in the Chinese mainland, and many experts are optimistic about the company's return.

According to a Forbes magazine report in 2015, Facebook opened an office in Beijing in 2014, while the company's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook's business in China is "thriving."

Chinese organizations and media outlets are already actively using Facebook as a platform to reach the outside world. China Central Television, the State-owned national broadcaster, has more than 21 million followers on Facebook, outshining many of its foreign counterparts.

Though predicting that Facebook's return is highly possible, Qin said the company still faces many challenges.

"Facebook has a relatively lax filter system in dealing with harmful information and Internet fraud, which has to be improved according to Chinese laws," Qin said.

"It's likely that a Chinese version of Facebook will be launched in China which subscribes to the country's laws," said Xin Haiguang, a Beijing-based Internet observer.

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