It went up, then down, like it was never really there, in a way that mirrors its eventual retreatment from one of the largest internet markets after few years of unbridled operations, like it never has a presence or a trace left in the middle kingdom.
After a number of visits to Beijing and several jogging stunts in misty and hazardous Beijing smog, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg seems to have gained a foothold in China on Tuesday, with the Menlo Park, CA., headquartered company reportedly setting up a Chinese subsidiary in Hangzhou city, capital of the country’s affluent eastern Zhejiang province.
According to a slew of local and western media, Facebook appeared to have filed with the local authority in Hangzhou, Zhejiang to register its subsidiary, however, the record on the government corporate registry later vanished, after a flood of headlines.
Success in getting a lawful corporate organization registered in China will mark a long series of attempts to placate Chinese authorities in Facebook’s attempt to establish a presence in the country. Its founder Mark Zuckerberg has long coveted the world’s largest consumer market, where Facebook’s social media site remains blocked.
Facebook’s subsidiary was registered in Hangzhou, which is also home to e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, and has been seeing the biggest influx of software engineering talent this year among major first and second-tier cities in China, according to a report published by Wise Talent, a Chinese human resources portal.
A missing filing
The subsidiary, called Facebook Technology (Hangzhou) Limited has a paid-up capital of US$30 million and is wholly-owned by Facebook’s Hong Kong office, Facebook Hong Kong Limited.
The filing said that Damian Yeo, head of Facebook’s legal team in Asia Pacific, is the Chairman while Zhang Jingmei is the general manager. Zhang was previously the vice-president at Chinese streaming site PPTV and joined Facebook in February last year, according to local media site Sina Finance.
Interestingly, after rounds and rounds of media coverage claiming Facebook is tiptoeing into China, the filing itself was not found in the national enterprise credit information system. It is uncommon for corporate listing to be taken down, at least according to some observers.
We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment on the filing being removed, while the company declined to comment other than saying the Hangzhou subsidiary was set up to support local startups and developers.
Like other Western tech giants like Apple and Google, Facebook has long tried to get access to China’s consumer market that is dominated by local platforms such as WeChat through a combination of courting goodwill with Chinese authorities and corporate PR.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO, famously jogged in Tiananmen Square during the smog-filled Beijing weather in March 2016. He also made learning Chinese his pet project and occasionally shared Chinese phrases on his Facebook profile other than making high-profile trips to China.
Zuckerberg also famously met with President Xi Jinping in 2015 when Xi came to the US for an official visit in 2015.
Facebook itself has been making moves to get back to China. The company also created a censorship tool that suppresses posts in certain geographic areas like China, widely seen as a move to get back into Beijing’s good books.
But Zuckerberg also told Recode in July this year that the company is “a long way from doing anything [in China]”. Judging from the take-down of the listing, it might be true.
Editor: Ben Jiang