Beijing: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — on holiday in China, where his global social networking site is blocked — met Monday with the head of the country’s biggest search engine Baidu, a spokesman said.
Zuckerberg, 26, and Baidu chief executive Robin Li toured the company’s offices in Beijing and had lunch together in one of the firm’s “private dining halls”, Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo told AFP.
“It makes sense — he is interested in the Chinese Internet, he’s made that very plain. Obviously this is one of the big dark spots for Facebook because it is blocked here in China,” Kuo said.
“He has had a long-standing interest in China. I’m sure he wants to get the advice of someone who knows the Internet landscape well here.”
Photos posted on popular web portal sina.com showed a smiling Zuckerberg — wearing a khaki hooded sweatshirt — walking with Li at the Baidu offices.
Zuckerberg, clearly keen to see his company crack the world’s biggest Internet market of at least 420 million users, told an audience at Stanford University recently that he was “spending a lot of time” studying Chinese.
“It’s kind of a personal challenge this year, I’m taking an hour a day and I’m learning Chinese. I’m trying to understand the language, the culture, the mind set — it’s just such an important part of the world,” he said.
“How can you connect the whole world if you leave out a billion-six people?”
Zuckerberg and his girlfriend Priscilla Chan are on holiday in China, Kuo said, without providing details on the length of their visit or their itinerary, other than that they had visited the Tibetan Lama Temple in Beijing.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked by the government, but many users on the mainland access them via virtual proxy networks.
Beijing has set up a huge online censorship system sometimes dubbed the “Great Firewall of China” that aggressively blocks sites or snuffs out Internet content on topics considered sensitive.
Zuckerberg’s visit to Beijing comes after he was last week crowned Time magazine’s “person of the year” — the second youngest person to receive the honour.
Managing editor Richard Stengel said Zuckerberg’s social networking service was “transforming the way we live our lives every day”.