Zuckerberg praised by Chinese netizens for surprising answer to senator’s question on China

Some have invited Zuck to ditch the US and launch a new social media company inside China

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become something of a hero in China today for his unexpected answer to one question during his testimony to Congress over his company’s colossal data sharing scandal.

When it was his turn to ask Zuckerberg some questions, Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan began with what he thought was a softball.

Sullivan: “Mr. Zuckerberg, quite a story, right? Dorm room to the global behemoth that you guys are. Only in America, would you agree with that?”
Zuckerberg: “Senator, mostly in America.”
Sullivan: “You couldn’t — you couldn’t do this in China, right? Or, what you did in 10 years.”
Zuckerberg: “Well — well, Senator, there are — there are some very strong Chinese internet companies.”
Sullivan: “Right but — you’re supposed to answer ‘yes’ to this question. OK, come on, I’m trying to help you, right? I mean, give me a break. You’re in front of a bunch of… the answer is ‘yes,’ OK, so thank you.”

This exchange has gone viral on Chinese social media with some Weibo users praising Zuckerberg for being “honest” and “forthright” in the face of an ignorant question meant as an attack against China. Meanwhile, others have joked that Zuckerberg ought to simply abandon the US, move to China, and found a new company.

Of course, as Paul Mozur of the New York Times points out, such a company would operate very differently from how Facebook does now, citing the recent troubles that Chinese news app startup Toutiao has encountered.

Still, Zuck’s answer to Senator Sullivan’s question is a not surprise to those of us who have followed the tech CEO’s dogged pursuit of his own “China dream.”

Over the years, Zuckerberg has learned Mandarin, taken morning jogs around Tiananmen Square, and even pretended to like Xi Jinping’s book, but all to no avail. Try as he might, he has been unable to convince China to unblock Facebook after the website was banned in 2010.

Facebook’s absence has tremendously helped the fortunes of China’s own tech behemoths. For instance, Tencent, which began in 1999 with an ICQ chat clone that later became known as QQ, overtook Facebook in market value last year, cracking the $500 billion club.

In fact, according to a picture published by the Associated Press of documents that Zuckerberg had on hand during his congressional hearing, the Facebook CEO was prepared to argue, if asked, that one reason for not breaking up his social media company was that such a move would be a boon to China’s own quickly growing companies.

“Break Up FB? U.S. tech companies key asset for America; break up strengthens Chinese companies,” the document reads.

While Zuckerberg did not get the chance to bring up this argument during his testimony, he did call for regulations to be loosened in sensitive, high-tech areas like face recognition, so that American companies would be allowed to “innovate” and not fall behind Chinese competitors.