Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg makes first public appearance speaking in Mandarin

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg impressed during a 30-minute Q&A session at Tsinghua University on Wednesday (Oct 22) when he addressed the crowd and fielded questions in Mandarin.

According to a post on his Facebook page, topics discussed during the session included “connecting the world, Internet.org, innovation and the early days of Facebook”.

During the Q&A session, Zuckerberg said one of the reasons he wanted to learn the language was to communicate with members of his wife Priscilla’s Chinese-American family, some of whom only spoke Mandarin.

This public display of his Chinese-speaking abilities was about four years in the making. “In 2010, my personal challenge was to learn Mandarin,” Zuckerberg wrote in a earlier Facebook post, adding that he had “always been interested in Chinese culture, and learning a language is a great way to learn about a culture”.

According to AFP, 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.

Zuckerberg himself has visited China four times, he said at Wednesday’s event, and earlier this week he was named to the advisory board of Tsinghua’s School of Economics and Management, a further step towards strengthening the company’s China ties.

Asked about Facebook’s plans in the country, he maintained: “We’re already in China.” “We help Chinese companies increase their overseas customers; they use Facebook advertising to find more customers,” he said. “So, we want to help different places in the world understand China.”


Asked by the moderator what he believes is the secret to Facebook’s success, he responded that “the most important thing is you can’t give up”. “It’s very difficult to develop a company,” he said. “Most things won’t go smoothly. You’ll have to make some difficult decisions. You may have to lay some people off.”

“If you don’t believe in your mission, it’s very easy to give up,” he added. “Most founders give up. But the best ones don’t.” He also opined that “the best companies aren’t made because the founder wants to found a company, but because the founder wants to change the world”.

During the question-and-answer session, Zuckerberg – who is red-green colourblind – said that his favourite colour is blue, the colour of the Facebook website. He also drew laughs when he recalled a conversation with his wife about his Chinese language ability.

“One day, I asked her, ‘Why is my Mandarin listening ability so bad?'” he told the crowd. “She responded: ‘You’re also bad at listening in English.'”

Here is the full video of him speaking Mandarin at Tsinghua University in Beijing.


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