WHY WAS ZUCKERBERG IN CHINA?
Zuckerberg may be hoping to lay the groundwork for an eventual entry into China, but he visited Beijing this week as a newly appointed member of the advisory board for Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management and met with the university's president on Tuesday.
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Both he and the university posted clips of his Wednesday session, which was open to questions from students for the last 8 minutes.
Facebook has been banned in China since 2009. Beijing promotes Internet use for business and education but bans material deemed subversive and blocks access to foreign news and social media websites that authorities believe could stoke social unrest.
SO, HOW'S HIS CHINESE?
Zuckerberg's Chinese pronunciation was far from fluent. Some native speakers called it a "challenge" to understand. But he was able to maintain intelligible conversation for a half hour and the students responded with warm cheers for his effort and laughter at his humor.
Zuckerberg married Chinese-American Priscilla Chan in 2012, and set himself the goal of learning Mandarin in 2010. He said Wednesday that he wanted to learn the language partly because his wife's grandmother only speaks Chinese. He recalled informing the grandmother of the marriage plans.
"Priscilla and I decided to get married, so I told her grandmother in Chinese, and she was very surprised," Zuckerberg said.
WHAT ELSE DID HE SAY?
Zuckerberg said several things apparently aimed at endearing himself to the Chinese audience. He said China is a great country and hopes that learning the language will help him learn its culture. "The Chinese language is difficult, and I speak English, but I like challenges," Zuckerberg said.
When asked about his favorite food, he cited the "Beijing hutong snacks" sold by street-side vendors in the capital.
HOW WAS HE RECEIVED?
Tsinghua students gave Zuckerberg a warm reception. On social media, many microbloggers noted the irony that Zuckerberg's famous creation is blocked in China.
Designer David Wang, in an interview in downtown Beijing, said he would be happy if Facebook was allowed across the so-called Great Firewall of China. "Because now we have to use software to jump the wall if we want to access Facebook," he said.
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Li Qin, a computer programmer from the eastern city of Hangzhou, said on a microblog that she could barely understand Zuckerberg's Chinese.
"It was a challenge for Chinese listening comprehension. But even though Facebook cannot enter the Chinese market, Mark is still making a fighting effort to learn," she said. "It was quite a funny scenario."