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Keep Knocking, Facebook: China Might Let You In

By many standards, Facebook is the undisputed king of social media with its 1.8 billion active users, according to The Wall Street Journal. In an attempt to continue its momentum, the social media giant has faced an uphill battle against one of the largest countries in the world, China.

Since 2009, Facebook has been blocked on all computers operating in China. This has paved the way for social media such as WeChat, QQ and Weibo to gain speed in the race to the top. Without entry into the Chinese market, Facebook is losing the opportunity to gain followers from the country’s population of nearly 700 million people.

“Obviously you can’t have a mission of wanting to connect everyone in the world and leave out the biggest country,” Mark Zuckerberg told analysts in 2015. “Over the long term, that is a situation [where] we will need to figure out a way forward.”

In late 2015, there was a small window of hope for the social media giant to engage with China. The country offered Facebook a license to open representative offices in the capital’s tower with one minor caveat: The lease was for a mere three-month period. Rather than take its chances and invest time in sending employees over to work for three months with the Chinese government, Facebook declined and refocused its efforts on other ways to penetrate the market.

It seems as if Facebook wants an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to making itself a fixture among Chinese social media.

Since 2009, the team over at Facebook has tried various approaches to ascertain what it wants to be — a dominant player in the Chinese social realm. These efforts include pursuing Chinese officials, significantly raising the presence of Mark Zuckerberg, hiring a China policy chief and taking steps toward Communist-friendly software development. With all of these strides aimed at trying to enter the Chinese market, some insiders say there’s a chance it may be too late.

“At this stage and time with WeChat, Weibo and other products, it’s hopeless,” said Kai-Fu Lee, Google’s former China head and now CEO of Innovation Works, a Chinese incubator.

From all of the various tactics Facebook has already tried, it is evident that there will need to be some significant improvements on innovative ways to approach the China market. With Facebook’s Amanda Chen recently appearing at a Guangzhou regional eCommerce convention sharing that Facebook is the key to grow Chinese businesses overseas, it looks like the tide may be starting to turn.

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