Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at Tsinghua University in Beijing on Wednesday.
To the delight and amazement of the crowd, he spoke in Mandarin Chinese.
“I’m very glad to be in Beijing,” he said to the group. “I love this city. My Chinese is really a mess, but I study using Chinese every day.”
Students and faculty cheered, the New York Times reports.
The Facebook CEO was holding court in Beijing because he just signed onto the advisory board of Tsinghua University, which is basically the Yale of China.
In a half hour talk — which you can watch in the video below — Zuckerberg talked about what Facebook is doing in China, his view of Chinese innovation, and why he is studying Chinese.
First off, his wife Priscilla Chan’s family speaks Chinese. Evidently her grandma was “very shocked” when he told her in Chinese that the two of them were getting married.
On the business end, he says that studying Chinese helps him to understand the culture.
Facebook has long sought to break into China and get to its 1.3 billion citizens, 45.8% of whom are currently internet users, a number that’s going to continue increasing. But China keeps Facebook, Twitter, and their peers out of the country for fear of how social networks might spur unrest.
The Times reports that when Zuckerberg was asked what Facebook’s plans for China were, he took two big gulps of water before providing a response.
“We’re already in China,” he said, cracking up the room. “We help Chinese companies increase foreign customers; they use Facebook ads to find more customers.”
There is one last reason he’s studying Mandarin.
“I like challenges,” he said.
Considering the achievements of the 30-year-old billionaire, this isn’t too surprising and may reflect the psychology behind his success. The fact that Zuckerberg is studying Chinese — a notoriously difficult language to pick up in adulthood — may be an outgrowth of his mindset.
By studying the language every day, he knows that with effort he can improve. That growth mindset — where you take effort, rather than talent, to be the driver of your progress — has been identified by developmental psychologist Carol Dweck as a predictor of success in relationships, academics, and business.
Here’s the video.
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