In an attempt to follow in the footsteps of industry leaders such as Elon Musk and Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly eager to sell products in China. However, his previous criticisms of China’s policies may pose a significant challenge to his plans.
Reports suggest that Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is currently in talks with Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings to introduce its Quest virtual-reality headsets to the Chinese market.
Since 2021, the company has been striving to break into China, a move prompted by Zuckerberg questioning why Apple and Tesla are permitted to sell their products in the country while Meta is not.
Nevertheless, Zuckerberg’s efforts to win over Chinese government officials may face obstacles due to his past criticisms of China, which could potentially hinder his virtual reality ambitions.
In 2019, during a speech at Georgetown University, Zuckerberg criticized China for curtailing freedom of speech through stringent media regulations, commonly referred to as The Great Firewall.
Specifically, Zuckerberg expressed concern over China’s restrictions on residents posting political content related to pro-Hong Kong activism on TikTok, suggesting that such actions could establish a dangerous precedent for the global internet.
He stated, “While our services like WhatsApp are used by protesters and activists everywhere due to strong encryption and privacy protections, on TikTok, the China-based app growing quickly around the world, mentions of these same protests are censored, even here in the US. Is that the internet we want?”
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During the same speech, Zuckerberg also voiced apprehension about China’s values spreading to other parts of the world.
He noted, “China is building its own internet focused on very different values and is now exporting their vision of the internet to other countries. A decade ago, almost all of the major internet platforms were American. Today, six of the top ten are Chinese.”
In 2020, Zuckerberg once again criticized the Chinese government, this time addressing its history of intellectual property theft. During a congressional hearing, he stated, “I think it’s well-documented that the Chinese government steals technology from American companies.”
Now, Zuckerberg finds himself needing the support of the same Chinese officials he has previously criticized. Meta’s previous attempts to win over Chinese authorities, such as proposing censorship tools in 2016, proved unsuccessful.
Despite his efforts, Zuckerberg admitted, “I want our services in China because I believe in connecting the whole world. I worked hard to make this happen. But we could never come to an agreement on what it would take for us to operate there, and they never let us in.”
Should Zuckerberg succeed in bringing Quest headsets to the Chinese market, it could potentially prove highly beneficial for Meta.
However, only time will reveal whether his plans to introduce virtual reality technology to China will become a tangible reality. At the time of publication, Meta and Tencent had not responded to SurgeZirc SA’s request for comment.