Facebook discussed “possibility of cooperation” with China Mobile

China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou has claimed that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with him at the end of last year to discuss “the possibility of cooperation” in China, according to a Bloomberg article published yesterday.

Zuckerberg’s recent visit to China generated much speculation but beyond the hearsay and analyst comments, Jianzhou’s comment, made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, is the first ‘official’, albeit brief, suggestion of Zuckerberg’s plan for the Chinese market.

Somewhat amusingly, Jianzhou “declined to provide details of the Zuckerberg meeting because it was private”.

Bloomberg had no success seeking clarification of the situation from Facebook’s Asia Commercial Director which, if read into, could suggest that Jianzhou has (wittingly or) unwittingly given away a little too much information on the world’s largest social network’s aims for China.

acebook.com's mastermind Mark Zuckerberg. Pic: AP.

For more on Facebook and its potential moves in Japan, see this excellent post from English-language, China tech blog TechRice, the first part of which is below.

Mark Zuckerberg’s visit has sparked media speculation that Facebook will set up operations in China, despite all evidence that it’s simply a personal visit coupled with personal curiosity.

Quora has an excellent thread on Zuckerberg’s visit that discusses two different options should Facebook seek to access the China market:

  1. A censored or separate Facebook
  2. Provide free technology to circumvent The Great Firewall

I argue that neither is likely for the foreseeable future. Instead, the likely course is a continuation of the status quo: no Facebook China. Facebook neither appeases nor pisses off the Chinese government (with circumvention technology). Instead, it concentrates on encircling China by dominating the neighboring markets in Russia, Korea, and Japan. If it succeeds, Facebook has then conquered every major nation on earth except China.

If Facebook is keen to establish a China presence, the most realistic step is to open a Beijing office for R&D, serving HK and Taiwan, and helping Chinese Facebook developers (who are surprisingly numerous (see the Top 10 Chinese Developers) and love Facebook). Facebook currently has 10 offices in the US, plus offices in the Ireland, the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Sweden, Australia, Japan, and India. China would be its first office in a market it has not yet conquered.

How would a potential partnership with China Mobile work into these scenarios?

At this stage it isn’t clear whether the interest in partnership was extended to other companies beyond China Mobile, which would seem a logical way of building bridges into a market, or for the operator alone.

Only time will tell whether Zuckerberg returns with further partnership proposals or his fact-finding trip is the first step to something more significant.