BEIJING—China may ban Facebook, but not its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, and he entertained an audience of students in Beijing with a 30-minute chat in his recently learned Mandarin Chinese.
There was no explicit discussion of the ban or any Facebook effort to enter the China market during Wednesday’s question-and-answer session at the prestigious Tsinghua University. But Facebook CEO Zuckerberg noted during his talk that the social media giant already helps some Chinese companies in foreign markets. He cited computer maker Lenovo’s ads on Facebook in India.
“We are already in China. We help Chinese companies gain customers abroad,” Zuckerberg said in Chinese. “We want to help the rest of the world connect to China.”
Beijing promotes Internet use for business and education but bans material deemed subversive or obscene and blocks access to foreign websites run by human rights and Tibet activists and some news and social media sites.
Zuckerberg’s pronunciation was far from fluent, 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 humour.
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 upcoming marriage.
“Priscilla and I decided to get married, so I told her grandmother in Chinese, and she was very surprised,” Zuckerberg said.
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.
Zuckerberg visited the school this week as a newly-appointed member to the advisory board for Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management and met with Tsinghua President Chen Jining on Tuesday.