What Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg said in Mandarin that so impressed the Chinese

The Facebook CEO spoke in Mandarin for almost half an hour in a talk at a Chinese university on Wednesday

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Tsinghua University.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Tsinghua University.

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg stunned many Chinese on Thursday, not with a new Facebook feature, but because he spoke and answered questions in Mandarin for almost half an hour.

Zuckerberg gave a talk in Chinese at Tsinghua University on Wednesday, and later posted a recording of the event to his Facebook page. The video quickly spread online, generating much surprise and praise from local Internet users.

"Such an awesome person is learning Chinese, why is my own English so bad," wrote one user on Chinese social networking site Sina Weibo.

Zuckerberg spoke with a strong accent, but handled the language confidently enough to impress the Chinese. Increasingly, executives from the biggest tech companies in the world are visiting the country, but rarely do they speak in Mandarin, let alone for such a long period, or field questions from the audience.

However, Zuckerberg has been studying Chinese, something he mentioned as far back as 2010. During his talk at Tsinghua University, he discussed his interest in China, his future goals for Facebook, and even cracked a joke about his Mandarin language skills. Here are some takeaways:

Why he learned Chinese

"The first reason is my wife [Priscilla Chan] is Chinese. Her family speaks Chinese, and her grandmother only speaks Chinese," Zuckerberg said. "When Priscilla and I decided to get married, I told her grandmother using Chinese. She was really shocked."

His plans for his visit to China

"I think the students at Tsinghua University are very good. Facebook has over 140 alumni from Tsinghua," he said, adding. "Every year we come to China to hire from the best cities. Last month, we hired 20 Chinese students." Zuckerberg has visited China four times.

Advice for Chinese students wanting to create a startup

"The best companies are created not just because an innovator wanted to create a company. It's because the innovator wanted to change the world," Zuckerberg said.

Asked what the secret to his success was, Zuckerberg replied, "Most innovators will give up, but the best innovators do not. So believe in your mission. Don't give up. This is very important."

On China's tech scene

"I think China has many of the world's most innovative companies. Last night I ate with Xiaomi's Lei Jun," he said, referring to the CEO of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, which has quickly become one of the country's biggest handset makers.

"Xiaomi is a very innovative company. They have developed many different products very fast," Zuckerberg said. He also pointed to social networking products from Chinese Internet giant Tencent as another example, and said he was impressed with the e-commerce site Taobao from Alibaba Group.

On Facebook coming to China

The social networking site has been blocked in China since 2009, as part of the country's online censorship. Zuckerberg said Facebook has a growing business in the country by selling advertisements to Chinese companies.

"We are already in China. We help Chinese companies grow their international customers. They use Facebook ads to find new customers," he said. "For example, Lenovo is in Indonesia using Facebook ads to sell phones."

Zuckerberg's problems listening

Asked if his Chinese was better than that of his wife Priscilla, Zuckerberg said his listening skills were particularly poor. "My listening is very weak. One day, I asked her why is my listening in Chinese so bad. She told me, 'Your listening in English is also bad.'"

Facebook's upcoming goals

He pointed to three upcoming goals: connecting all of the world to the Internet, developing artificial intelligence, and creating more virtual reality products. Earlier this year, Facebook bought virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR for US$2 billion.

"Once everyone is using a mobile phone, I believe the next platform will be virtual reality. Oculus is the first product, but we hope to have many products," he said.

Following his talk, Internet users in China naturally asked when the Facebook website would enter the country. But Zuckerberg made no comment on it during the event. A Chinese official said he welcomed the site last year, but only if it followed the country's Internet regulations.

Not all of China's Internet users were quite as impressed with Zuckerberg's speech, with some commenting that he was hard to understand. But an Internet user named Lung Lei said most of what Zuckerberg said during his talk was spoken without any grammatical or usage mistakes, and he only need practice more on pronouncing his tones.

"Chinese is one of the hardest languages, but Zuckerberg is daring enough to take the challenge. Moreover, it's obvious he successfully overcame the challenge," he said. "By using China's mother language to communicate, I felt Zuckerberg was being more personal, and it pulled me in."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesregulationsocial networkinggovernmentinternetFacebook

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?