Did Facebook just get blocked from opening a company in China?
Breaking into China has never been easy for Facebook. This week’s development shows how hard it still is.
Just one day after the company got approval to set up a subsidiary in the city of Hangzhou, its official business registration vanished online. The New York Times, citing an unnamed source, says the filing was pulled because Beijing’s central internet watchdog was unhappy that local officials hadn’t consulted with them more closely.
Facebook said it wanted to build a startup incubator named Facebook Technology to train Chinese developers and entrepreneurs. It mirrors a similar move by Google -- another American tech giant that’s largely banned in China -- to create an AI research center in Beijing.
Over the years, Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t masked his desire to woo China. He’s given talks to university students in Mandarin, asked Xi Jinping to name his baby, and recommended his employees to read the Chinese president’s book.
But last week, even the Facebook CEO himself admitted it will be a long time before people in China can use Facebook’s social network.
Still, despite having their main services banned in China, both Facebook and Google have vast business interests that extend far beyond their core products. That gives them plenty of room to explore other opportunities in the world’s biggest internet market.
Even if Facebook can’t open an office in China, it still has a presence of sorts in the country. Facebook partners with Xiaomi to make and sell Oculus VR headsets. It also sells ads to Chinese companies hoping to reach a global audience. And it released a Chinese version of the Moments app, called Colorful Balloons.