Facebook to return to China? Zuckerberg’s Asian trip sparks rumours

30/03/2012

Mark Zuckerberg has been spotted in Shanghai this week, sparking rumours that Facebook could be eyeing a return to the lucrative Chinese market after being blocked three years ago. Facebook now has at least 845 million users around the world, but has been banned in mainland China since 2009.

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The social network was firewalled after Chinese authorities said rioters leveraged the site to organize anti-government demonstrations. Twitter, Google, and YouTube are also blocked.

Zuckerberg visited an Apple store and was seen shopping in central Shanghai with his Chinese fiance Priscilla Chang.

"Does this mean... Facebook is preparing to be unblocked?" wrote a user on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service.

Photos showed the couple looking relaxed, but the possibility that there may be business afoot was stirred by the simultaneous presence of Apple CEO Tim Cook in China.

Other sites reported rumours the two men shared an executive jet during the visit.

While Facebook said Zuckerberg is just on vacation, bloggers wondered if his visit might be a sign that China might get access to the social network, the AFP reported.

Similar rumors swirled after Zuckerberg was seen late last year vacationing in Vietnam, where Facebook is also blocked. Zuckerberg last visited China in 2010.

That trip was also called a vacation, but he used the opportunity to visit the headquarters of Internet companies such as Sina, Alibaba, and Baidu.

In its recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a public offering of stock, Facebook estimated it has zero percent penetration in China.

"We continue to evaluate entering China," Facebook said in the filing. "However, this market has substantial legal and regulatory complexities that have prevented our entry into China to date."

Earlier last year, a deal between Facebook and Chinese search engine Baidu on a joint social-networking website apparently fell apart when the site was taken down by Chinese

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