Facebook eyeing to re-connect with China?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

BEIJING - Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg met with some of China’s top technology leaders, fuelling speculation about the social networking website’s ambitions to enter the country’s market where it is censored.

Zuckerberg Wednesday visited the offices of Sina Corp., a leading Chinese web portal, and met with its CEO Charles Chao, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Wednesday’s meeting followed a talk Tuesday with Wang Jianzhou, chairman of state-owned telecommunications carrier China Mobile Ltd., and a visit Monday with Robin Li, CEO of Baidu Inc., at the Chinese search company’s headquarters.

Zuckerberg’s trip appeared to be an effort by the 26-year-old to learn more about the Chinese market, rather than discuss any specific business proposals.

But the visit came as the Facebook founder openly has discussed a desire to get into China, where the government has blocked access to the site since last year.

At a talk this year to aspiring entrepreneurs in the US, Zuckerberg said he is hoping to figure out the “right partnerships that we would need to do in China to succeed on our terms”.

“It’s such an important part of the world. I mean, how can you connect the world if you leave out” China’s population of more than one billion people, he was quoted as saying.

A Facebook spokeswoman said Zuckerberg is in China on vacation.

China had 420 million internet users as of June. According to an estimate, Chinese social networking sites had 176 million users last year, up 68 percent from a year ago.

Liu Qi, vice general manager of Sina’s marketing department, said Zuckerberg and Chao met to discuss China’s market and to learn about its Twitter-like microblogging product, Sina Weibo.

Facebook is available in 70 languages, and 70 percent of its more than 500 million active users are outside the US. It started a Chinese-language version in 2008, but gained little traction in China, because of Chinese competition as well as government’s web-filtering technology, which made access to parts of the site spotty even before it was blocked entirely.

Filed under: Economy

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