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Zuckerberg Negotiating To Bring Facebook To China?

December 20, 2010

Photos leaked on the Internet show that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was in China on Monday meeting with the chief of that country’s largest search engine, leading to speculation that the 26-year-old was there in an attempt to stop the blocking of his popular social networking website.

The pictures show Zuckerberg, who recently was named the Time Magazine Person of the Year for 2010, meeting with Baidu head Robin Li. Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo told AFP that the two met and had lunch together in one of the Chinese company’s “private dining halls,” but added in a separate interview with the Associated Press (AP) that he was unsure what the two discussed.

Kuo also told the AP that this was not the first time Zuckerberg and Li had met.

According to Jonathan Watts of The Guardian, who was reporting from Beijing on Monday, “Moments after Zuckerberg and Li were seen strolling through the canteen in Baidu’s Beijing headquarters today, an employer posted a blurred mobile-phone photograph of them on her microblog.”

“The image spread quickly, first via Chinese social networking sites, then on to the English side of the internet, prompting speculation that the two IT players may be planning to cross the divide,” Watts added, noting that Facebook has been blocked in China since 2008.

In October, while speaking at Stanford University, Zuckerberg posed the question, “How can you connect the whole world if you leave out 1.6 billion people?”

“It makes sense — he is interested in the Chinese Internet, he’s made that very plain. Obviously this is one of the big dark spots for Facebook because it is blocked here in China,” Kuo told AFP. “He has had a long-standing interest in China. I’m sure he wants to get the advice of someone who knows the Internet landscape well here.”

Baidu was founded in January 2000, and reportedly provides an index of over 740 million web pages, 80 million images, and 10 million multimedia files, including MP3s and movies, to the more than 400 million Internet users currently residing in China. The company also provides a number of other products and services, including maps, an online encyclopedia, games, financial news, and anti-virus software.

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