Mark Zuckerberg is famous for his casual approach to office attire, but the CEO made a rare exception to his usual dress code for a rare meeting with China’s propaganda chief Liu Yunshan this weekend.
Facebook, like other US digital platforms, is blocked in the country so Liu effectively holds the keys to some 720 million new users, the largest internet nation, should he decide to relax regulation of social networks.
That doesn’t initially seem a likely prospect, as AP reports, China is calling for a global Web “governance system” that would further help the country control what its citizens see on the internet.
Facebook would no doubt have to submit to censorship rules that it wouldn’t be all that happy with if it wants to go live in China.
Chinese writer Tie Liu, who works under this pen name but whose real name is Huang Zerong, harshly critcized the powerful Chinese bureaucrat’s propaganda efforts in 2014, saying:
for over a decade, with publishing and television all under Liu Yunshan’s control, there hasn’t been a single newspaper reporting the truth, not a single book that could stand on its feet, and not a single good movie or television series.
Facebook says it’s not received content takedown requests from the Chinese government, no doubt because the platform is largely unavailable in the country unless you’re handy with a VPN, but this figure would likely shoot up should China come online.
Many Chinese businesses are using Facebook to grow their reach outside of China, though, so politicians there must balance their desire for control with the need to fix the economy following a huge drop in growth.
According to China’s official Xinhua News Agency, Liu indicated in his meeting with Zuckerberg that he was keen for Facebook to help make “internet development better benefit the people of all countries.”
It will be interesting to see if this meeting turns into action. Facebook wants proper access to Chinese users and now, clearly, China wants Facebook’s help.
➤ Facebook’s Zuckerberg meets with China’s propaganda chief [Associated Press]