We already know that Mark Zuckerberg is a brown nose—he says he learned Mandarin because his in-laws speak it—but there’s a limit to how far sucking up can go.
Chinese state media published a photo Monday that “just happened” to have a copy of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book on governance sitting on the Facebook founder’s desk.
That’s subtle, Mark.
But then he went overboard.
“I’ve also bought copies of this book for my colleagues,” Zuckerberg was quoted as saying to China Internet boss Lu Wei, who visited the US last week. “I want them to understand socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Lu the internet gatekeeper heads a sophisticated system of internet controls that currently block Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, most Google products and thousands of other websites in mainland China, so Zuckerberg’s promoting of the book struck many as kowtowing.
“Zuckerberg is an internet genius, the founder of the Facebook empire,” Hu Jia, a prominent Chinese dissident, told the Telegraph. “Yet his understanding of Chinese politics is like that of a three-year-old, not a 30-year-old.”
“In China, the top three enemies of internet are the Communist Party, Xi Jinping and Lu Wei,” Hu added.
In October, Lu Wei, the internet tsar, defended his country’s right to block websites such as Facebook. “China has always been very hospitable, but we can choose who enters our house,” he told the Telegraph. “I didn’t say Facebook could not enter China, but nor did I say that it could.”
In September, Lu said in a speech, “If you are hurting China’s interests, China’s security or you are hurting the interests of Chinese consumers, we won’t allow this to exist.”
Whether Zuckerberg was brown nosing or not—Lu’s job is to decide what his country’s estimated 641 million internet users can access online—his handing out of Xi’s book called “The Governance of China” won’t break down the Great Firewall anytime soon.
One reviewer on Amazon named Li Po called it “The funniest book ever published.”
I don’t know about that, but it’s hard to fathom what Zuck’s employees might learn from Xi one-liners that very much read like something you’d find in a fortune cookie.
“Only the wearer knows if the shoe fits his foot.” (Xi on the need to boost people’s belief in China’s political direction — translation courtesy of the Telegraph.)
“The arrow won’t come back after you shoot the bow.” (Xi on the need for reform.)
“To be turned into iron, the metal itself must be strong.” (Xi on the need for the Communist Party to constantly improve.)
“Show courage to scrape the toxins off the bones and act with the bravery to cut off one’s own wrist.” (Xi on how the Communist Party must do everything to fight corruption.)
All told, the sight of Xi’s book on a tech tycoon’s table has been taken as hypocritical and absurd by many observers—the government Xi leads has one of the most restrictive internet policies in the entire world, as the Washington Post noted.
On Weibo, many users also criticized Zuckerberg.
“Mark is going all out to make money,” commented one user. “He’s just one step away from joining the Communist Party.”
Facebook faces huge challenges to fulfill its mission to “connect the world” without compromising content and operations as Beijing would likely require. But Zuckerberg’s charm offensive with Lu reveals he’s picked up more than just Mandarin, said USA Today.
“It shows a mastery of the type of sycophancy that can have results in China,” Jeremy Goldkorn, the founder of Danwei, a Beijing-based media research firm, told USA Today. “Even if there is no chance in hell of Facebook operating in China in the near future, they have long-term ambitions,” he said.
In addition to photos with Zuckerberg, pictures in the Chinese press showed Lu, the minister of China’s Cyberspace Administration, exchanging laughs with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Apple CEO Tim Cook. I guess if brown-nosing is good enough for Zuckerberg, it’s good enough for everyone else.
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