Facebook is banned in China, but the co-founder of the world’s largest social network appears determined to win over hearts and minds in Beijing — in Mandarin.
Mark Zuckerberg surprised a hall full of Chinese and international students when he kicked off a question-and-answer session at the elite Tsinghua University with the words “Hello, everyone” in Chinese.
The 30-year-old head of the US-based site conducted the entire half-hour session in Mandarin, eliciting cheers and applause from the shocked crowd, a video of the event he posted Thursday showed.
Zuckerberg discussed topics including his philosophy on founding a company and his view of Chinese innovation, as well as more personal matters such as his favourite colour, favourite Chinese dish and the Chinese-American family of his wife, Priscilla Chan.
“I want to study Chinese culture,” he said. “Studying the language helps me study the culture. So, I’m trying to learn the language.Also, I like a challenge.”
Facebook has been blocked in mainland China since 2009, ranking it among a growing number of major global social media sites including Twitter, YouTube and Instagram that have been blacklisted by the ruling Communist Party.
Despite the ban, Facebook officials have made frequent trips to Beijing, speaking at tech conferences and meeting with business and government leaders.
The company has an office in Hong Kong, where Facebook is not blocked, and has also reportedly rented office space in Beijing in a bid to boost its business selling online ads to Chinese companies and local governments seeking to promote themselves abroad.