Mark Zuckerberg is going to China!
Literally. While it’s not known yet whether/how Facebook will go to China, Mark Zuckerberg is planning his second trip there, Reuters reports.
China is a great country, Zuckerberg is learning Chinese and his girlfriend is Chinese-American, so it makes sense that he would go there for some R&R. But given that China is the biggest, and fastest growing big internet market, it also makes sense that he would squeeze in a few business-related stops.
So it seems from a copy of Mark Zuckerberg’s planned itinerary that we’ve obtained.
And by obtained, we mean “totally made up.”
So, here’s where a few sights we think you should see, Mark.
Shanghai's Pearl Tower is one of the world's most recognisable landmarks.
From the observation deck, Mark can embrace with one glance what is so tantalising about the Chinese opportunity: the vibrancy of a very large, very fast growing world city at the forefront of a very large, very fast growing nation.
'Mark really likes tech entrepreneurs. He likes meeting with them always, everywhere he goes,' Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says about Mark, and we're not surprized.
Zhongguancun in Beijing is a cluster of science universities and high-tech startups that's just as hot as Silicon Valley. A great place for Mark to see what's going on in China and meet great entrepreneurs.
InnovationWorks is an incubator started by Kai-fu Lee, one of the most revered internet execs in China, who was the head of Microsoft and Google in China. A great place for Mark to see some more very talented people.
And also a great place to see a less enticing side of China: InnovationWorks has apparently become famous for investing in clones of US startups like Tumblr and Quora, so much so that people are calling it 'CopyWorks.'
Tiananmen Square isn't just a great tourist hotspot. It is, of course, the place where the Chinese Government killed dozens of students who were peacefully protesting for democratic reform.
According to reports, Mark wants to go into China because he believes Facebook can 'open up' the country and foster change. And maybe that's true over the long haul. But over the short term, it means he's going to have to condone and aid censorship and repression to comply with the Chinese authorities. Is that something he wants to live with? We don't envy Mark's position. There's no 'right' answer to this dilemma. But we think he ought to at least look at where the government he wants to woo killed peaceful protesters.
Another unpleasant reality of China, and another one where there is no black and white. The industrialisation of China has fostered tremendous economic growth, and many of the migrant workers who toil in China's factories prefer it to the farm back home. But again, a reality that shouldn't be ignored.
People talk about the enormous growth and wealth in China's coastal areas, and all of it is true. But at the end of the day, China is a country with a GDP per capita lower than Ecuador. There is tremendous wealth, but also tremendous poverty, and tremendous inequality. Again, something for which there are no clear answers but that someone looking to invest in China should grapple with.
New York Times columnist David Brooks pithily summarized China's political system as 'if Harvard's alumni association had an army.' The Chinese 'Communist' Party is completely unideological. But it recruits the smartest minds of the world's biggest country to be its leaders. A jaunt in the Party's finishing school for its elites will allow Mark to have a chat with people his age who are as smart as him and who will probably be as powerful as him some years down the line.
Facebook is thought to be negotiating a China joint venture with Baidu. It'd be rude not to pay them a courtesy call.
Yahoo is one of the few 'successful' US tech companies in China. And yet 'successful' largely means having invested in successful Chinese companies.
And even then, Yahoo just lost a big Asian asset, Alipay, when its ownership was transfered from Alibaba Group, where it has a big stake, to an entity controlled by Alibaba's founder. Why? How? Are they going to get any money in return? Welcome to China.
Another big US tech company that went to China with lofty goals, both from a business and from an 'ethical' standpoint. Google wouldn't just make tons of money in China, it would nudge the country toward greater openness.
How'd that work out? Ask them. (You can also ask your friend Robin Li.)
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