Zuckerberg’s China Trip Sparks Facebook Frenzy
The sight of a vacationing Mark Zuckerberg in Shanghai has sparked a frenzy of online speculation over the possibility Facebook might return to China, even though the site remains firmly blocked.
Excited Chinese bloggers posted photographs of the Facebook founder and his girlfriend at an Apple store and in Shanghai’s art gallery district on Tuesday, expressing hopes it might mean access to the popular social networking site.
“Does this mean… Facebook is preparing to be unblocked?” said Kelisisong on the popular Sina microblog service, a Chinese version of Twitter.
Facebook has more than 800 million users around the world and is the leading social network in all but six countries, notably Russia, where local rivals are preferred, and China, where it has been banned since 2009.
Last month the California-based company said it continued to “evaluate entering China” — the world’s largest Internet market — as it filed paperwork seeking to raise $5 billion on Wall Street.
Analysts say Facebook’s chances of re-entering the market of half a billion Internet users are slim.
Nonetheless, China’s Internet users speculated the billionaire Zuckerberg might be seeking to make inroads into the market during his time in China.
“China has always been the centre of attention (for foreign technology firms),” said blogger Qimeng Luosong. “Maybe tomorrow morning when we get up, we can open Facebook.”
Beijing attempts to block content it deems politically sensitive through a censorship system known popularly as the “Great Firewall of China”. Web users can only access blocked sites through virtual private networks.