18 August 2019
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (L) meets the president of Tsinghua University, Dr. Chen Jining (R) in Beijing. Photo: Tsinghua Univeristy
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (L) meets the president of Tsinghua University, Dr. Chen Jining (R) in Beijing. Photo: Tsinghua Univeristy

Zuckerberg finds a perch to renew China Facebook push

Since the Chinese government banned the use of Facebook in 2009, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the social networking website, has been searching for ways to re-enter the market.

Well, he may have just found a perch from which he can push forward his campaign. Beijing’s Tsinghua University announced Monday that it has appointed Zuckerberg to the board of its prestigious business school, providing a platform for the US internet mogul to spread his wings.

By joining hands with the elite Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management, Zuckerberg places himself in a better position to understand the Chinese market. The young billionaire will be staying in Beijing for a few days. A Facebook spokesperson told Reuters this week that Zuckerberg will meet with advertising partners and China experts to learn about the market.

Given that many of Facebook’s predecessors have failed to open up the China market, Zuckerberg and his team are keen on learning more about how to deal with the special culture and environment in running a business in the country.

Victor Anthony, equity analyst at US-based Topeka Capital Markets, told Bloomberg that Facebook has been hiring Chinese university students and offering them positions in the US. Earlier this year, Facebook opened positions seeking US-based language specialists who are fluent in simplified Chinese.

If China finally gives Facebook a nod, allowing it to reach 30 percent of its internet users, it would be a huge boost to the company’s future development, and will add an additional US$3-4 to its share price, according to Topeka Capital Market’s estimate.

Facebook shares shot up more than 2.7 percent to US$78.69 on Tuesday following the news of Zuckerberg’s appointment to the Tsinghua business school board.  

That said, the road to securing the green light could be long. There is still much work to do, and even more compromises to make, before Facebook can tap into China’s 600 million plus netizens.

Last month, the China Internet Reporting Office, a government bureau that monitors the country’s internet landscape, criticized Facebook and video sharing platform YouTube for being too slow in deleting inappropriate content such as terrorist propaganda, pornography and rumors, according to a Xinhua report.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has been tightening control over the internet since he took office in 2012. Authorities have, for instance, shut out the instant messaging app Line and photo-sharing platform Flickr this summer. Another photo-sharing network Instagram, which is under Facebook, was also blocked last month.

Facebook knows it won’t be easy and is prepared for a drawn out fight in China. In July, the company is said to have signed a three-year contract to rent office space in the Fortune Financial Center in Beijing’s central business district. The move clearly signals the company’s intentions.

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EJ Insight writer

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