Mark Zuckerberg’s charm offensive has been firing from all cylinders during his current trip to Beijing to attend the China Development Forum.
One minute he’s showing off his Chinese, the next he’s jogging through the city without a mask, completely oblivious to the smog that permeates Beijing. The derisive comments he received on Chinese social media (though not Facebook as it’s still blocked in the country), reflect the general cynicism toward Zuckerberg’s newfound love for the country. For his part, Zuckerberg seemed unperturbed.
Later, the Facebook CEO even ditched his favorite grey t-shirt to don a suit for the China Development Forum. Sharing the stage with fellow billionaire entrepreneur Jack Ma — owner of Alibaba Group Holding Co. — the two spoke to a guest list comprised of the country’s power brokers, and business leaders from across the globe.
Also in attendance were International Business Machines CEO Virginia Roomett, and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Zuckerberg began the session by speaking in Chinese, stating that he had a keen interest in China’s next five-year economic plan. He also mentioned what is generally viewed as the country’s biggest annual political event, the almost simultaneous meetings of the China’s legislature and a government advisory body, which concluded earlier this week.
The two executives then switched to English in order to lavish praise upon the business cultures of America and China. Ma noted that U.S. entrepreneurs are more aware of their competitors’ activities as compared to the Chinese, who are less competition-focused. Ma added that he respected Zuckerberg’s commitment to learning Chinese, as it reflected more than a passing interest in the country, and indicated a fondness for its culture, rather than just a mere business ploy.
Zuckerberg expressed his optimism for China’s future, which he said was founded on science and technology education. The mood reportedly became much more casual when Ma told an anecdote recalling the first time he met Zuckerberg, almost a decade ago. The two business leaders were at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps, where they had a brief conversation. They decided to swap numbers, and Ma recalled that Zuckerberg called him first. As is the case with his current Chinese PR barrage, Zuckerberg obviously took the initiative.