Saturday 25 October 2014

Mark Zuckerberg springs a surprise with Q&A in Mandarin

The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2014

BEIJING - Facebook may be banned in China, but the co-founder of the world's largest social network appears determined to win over hearts and minds in Beijing, and in Mandarin too.

Mr Mark Zuckerberg surprised a hall full of Chinese and international students when he held a short question-and-answer session, in Mandarin, at the elite Tsinghua University.

On Wednesday I did my first ever public Q&A in Chinese at Tsinghua University in Beijing!We discussed connecting the world,, innovation and the early days of Facebook. Earlier this week I joined the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management Advisory Board. Tsinghua is an amazing center of learning and research, and it has been inspiring to be with so many talented future Chinese leaders.
Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The gesture elicited applause from the shocked crowd, a video of the event he posted yesterday showed. Kicking off with the words "Hello, everyone" in Chinese, the 30-year-old went on to discuss topics including his philosophy on founding a company and his view of Chinese innovation.

He also spoke about personal matters such as his favourite colour and Chinese dish and the Chinese- American family of his wife, Priscilla Chan.

"I want to study Chinese culture," he said. "Studying the language helps me study the culture. So, I'm trying to learn the language. Also, I like a challenge."

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 business and government leaders.

The company has an office in Hong Kong, where Facebook is not blocked, and has reportedly rented office space in Beijing in a bid to boost its business selling online ads to Chinese firms and local governments seeking to promote themselves abroad.

Mr Zuckerberg has visited China four times, he said at Wednesday's event. 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.

"We help Chinese companies increase their overseas customers; they use Facebook advertising to find more customers," he said. "We want to help different places in the world understand China."


Zuckerberg gets As, some Ds for Mandarin
Praises for Facebook chief's effort, but some critics slam his enunciation
The Straits Times, 25 Oct 2014

BEIJING - While American social networking titan Mark Zuckerberg surprised many this week when strings of Mandarin words tumbled out of his mouth during his trip to Beijing, some Mandarin speakers were not impressed.

Four years after he said he would pick up Mandarin in his spare time while running a company worth more than US$200 billion (S$255 billion), the Facebook co-founder fielded questions entirely in Mandarin at an event at Tsinghua University. As a video of Wednesday's 30-minute question-and-answer session went viral on social media, most netizens heaped praises on the eighth richest person in America, but others were less forgiving.

Mr Isaac Stone Fish, Asia editor for Foreign Policy magazine who used to be based in Beijing, thought Mr Zuckerberg "speaks Mandarin like a seven-year-old".

"It's hard to describe in English what Zuckerberg's Mandarin sounded like, but I'd put it roughly at the level of someone who studied for two years in college," Mr Fish wrote on his blog. "Which means he can communicate like an articulate seven-year-old with a mouth full of marbles," Mr Fish added, while giving credit to Mr Zuckerberg, 30, for the brave attempt.

News outlet Quartz picked on Mr Zuckerberg's pronunciation, calling it a "plucky disregard for the tones that Mandarin has".

"One tonal slip-up had him saying that Facebook boasts eleven mobile users instead of one billion," said a Quartz article. "And his enunciation was roughly on a par with the clarity possible when someone's stepping on your face."

Grading Mr Zuckerberg's performance at "somewhere between intermediate high and advanced low level" when asked by the Washington Post, New York University language lecturer Gao Chen lauded the Facebook chief for his ability to communicate with confidence and humour.

Some ethnic Chinese also left encouraging messages in Chinese on Mr Zuckerberg's Facebook page. One by the name of Ping Wu wrote: "Kudos to you. One can truly connect with the world with an open, humble mindset."

Another user David Feng wrote: "Speak more Mandarin and remove the censorship on your website, so that everyone in the country need not climb over the wall (China's Internet censorship) to access your website."

Facebook is banned in China.

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