Mark Zuckerberg's Beijing Adventure
Now that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has overthrown the internet and been named Time's "Person of the Year" is there anything left for him to do? Yes: Conquer China, beginning with this weekend's visit to Beijing.
Zuckerberg, who's been learning Mandarin, was photographed in Beijing meeting with Robin Li, the founder of China's biggest search engine, Baidu, writes Shanghaiist. He was given a tour of Baidu's offices and had lunch with Li, according to Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo (who joked on Twitter that "rumors that Baidu is about to acquire Facebook are greatly exaggerated").
Facebook, of course, is still blocked in China, a fact that bums Zuckerberg out: "How can you connect the whole world if you leave out 1.6 billion people?" he asked in October. China represents a huge, fast-growing market with an appetite for internet bullshit, and Zuckerberg would have to be nuts to not be trying to open Facebook up in some way or another to the country. Even if no formal business deal is struck on this trip, a good relationship with Baidu—the preferred search engine of China's 300 million-plus internet users—would be essential to doing business on the scale Facebook would like.
Baidu, of course, censors its search results; Google, which briefly attempted to maintain a version of the site geared toward mainland China, did not, and has since left of China. Which means the looming question is: Will Facebook censor itself in order to facilitate a Chinese version (Or, probably more likely: To what extent will Facebook censor itself, and what kind of government controls and backdoors will be allowed?)
And what else is our guy up to on his trip? According to the AP, he's going to visit a Tibetan temple in Beijing today with his girlfriend Priscilla Chan. Aw. Sounds fun! Can't wait for The Social Network 2: Zuck Goes to China.