Almost exactly a year ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sent the internet into a frenzy when he did a Q&A in Chinese at a Tsinghua University event. The performance drew mixed reviews at the time: some praising the then 30-year-old CEO for his persistence, others picking apart his shaky pronunciation and so-so grammar.
A year later he has returned to the same event with a 22-minute Chinese speech, which he claims is his “first real speech in any language sharing how I started thinking about Facebook’s mission.” The lengthy talk was littered with Chinese idioms and even some well-timed jokes, showing off the progress his Chinese has made in the past year.
Dressed down in what appears to be the same grey t-shirt he wore to the event last year, Mr. Zuckerberg told the crowd his motivation for starting Facebook was “to connect people”, a mission statement he believes he shares with Chinese tech companies Alibaba and Xiaomi.
“I want to connect people… and when I look at Chinese companies like Alibaba and Xiaomi, I see the same story,” he said.
He goes on to praise Jack Ma in particular, citing one of the Chinese business man’s most popular Alibaba anecdotes. “Jack Ma has a great quote,” said Mr. Zuckerberg on stage, “Compared with 15 years ago, we are big. Compared with 15 years from now, we are still a baby.”
While he didn’t directly discuss any plans for Facebook’s entry to China (where the social media site is still banned behind the Great Firewall), he did emphasize the importance of international expansion for the future of Facebook, reiterating that the site was not just a U.S. product.
Preceding his Q&A session last year, Mr. Zuckerberg was named to Tsinghua’s School of Economics and Management’s advisory board, a position he continues to hold. In the past he has praised Tsinghua for its role as an innovation driver in China’s tech scene.
His impressive progress drew some praise on Chinese social media sites, though the young CEO has had a few important Chinese language engagements in the past year to practice.
In September Zuckerberg had some significant face time with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the leader was visiting the U.S.. At the time Mr. Zuckerberg requested a nickname from Mr. Xi for his unborn daughter, though Mr. Xi politely declined, saying it was too much pressure.
While Facebook continues to be banned in China, the company has been targeting Chinese companies who are looking to court audiences abroad.