Facebook's Zuckerberg Travels To China, Japan

By David Cohen Comment

Facebook Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg spent this week in China and Japan: Was it a pre-initial public offering vacation with girlfriend Priscilla Chan, business, or a little bit of both?

The International Herald Tribune‘s Rendezvous blog reported that Zuckerberg and Chan were spotted in Shanghai Tuesday, immediately fueling speculation that Facebook was making another attempt to gain a foothold in a market where access to the social network is severely restricted.

Facebook has been blocked in mainland China since 2009, along with Google, YouTube, and Twitter, as Chinese authorities claimed that those sites were used to organize anti-government demonstrations in Xinjiang, and Rendezvous cited data from Socialbakers in pegging users in the country who access Facebook via proxies, tunnels, or virtual private network software at around 450,000, making it the 101st-ranked country in terms of users.

On the subject of China, Facebook would only say:

We continue to evaluate entering China. However, this market has substantial legal and regulatory complexities that have prevented our entry into China to date.

And in a November interview with journalist Charlie Rose, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said of China:

It’s not really our choice. It’s the government’s choice.

When Zuckerberg and Chan visited China in December 2010, they met with major online companies in the country, including Sina, Alibaba, and Baidu.

There was a little less drama attached to the Japanese leg of the trip, as Zuckerberg was there to attend Mobile Hack Tokyo, where mobile developers meet with Facebook’s developer-relations team, Reuters reported.

Zuckerberg also met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who recognized the contributions of social media following last year’s earthquake and tsunami in the country, and Reuters reported that Noda told Zuckerberg, “It’s a funny feeling to see you here, because I watched the film,” referring to The Social Network, and Zuckerberg — who left his trademark hoodie behind for a grey suit and blue tie — replied, “Very different.”

Zuckerberg was also quoted as saying:

Japan’s the only country in the world outside the U.S. where we have an engineering office because we’re really committed to making a really good product here.

Readers: Do you think Facebook will eventually be able to scale the Great Wall and establish a presence in China?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.