Recently in a Q&A session in Beijing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg surprised everyone by speaking in Chinese. Whether he was fluent or not depends on the listener, but still, the audience were clearly impressed by Zuckerberg’s efforts to learn the language and cheered him throughout the 30-minute Q&A.
Here’s the interview in English, for everyone who doesn’t understand Mandarin, or knows Mandarin but still can’t fully understand what Zuckerberg was saying.
Mark Zuckerberg: Good day, everyone. I am Zuckerberg. My Chinese is bad, but I am using it every day. I think I need to practice more.
MC: Everyone is shocked that you can speak Chinese. What is the reason for you to learn Chinese?
Mark Zuckerberg: There are three reasons. Firstly, my wife is a Chinese. She speaks Chinese at home. Her grandmother speaks only Chinese. So I want to be able to talk to them. Few years back, I decided to marry with my wife and I requested her grandmother to talk to me in Chinese, she was very surprised. Secondly, I wanted to learn Chinese culture. China is a great country. I wanted to learn Chinese because I think that language helps in studying the Chinese culture. Thirdly, Mandarin is difficult. I’ve been speaking English all this while, so I like the challenge.
MC: How many times have you visited China?
Mark Zuckerberg: Four times. I have been to Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Tianjin. When I was in Beijing, I wanted to visit Huo Yuan Jia’s hometown, Tianjin by high-speed rail. I liked the movie (Fearless), so I wanted to visit the place.
MC: I see. You wish to visit his hometown because you are a die-hard fan of Huo Yuan Jia. Which city did you like the most?
Mark Zuckerberg: I like Beijing the most.
MC: What are your plans visiting China this time?
Mark Zuckerberg: This week I attended Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management Advisory Board Meeting. I think students from Tsinghua are good. Next year we are going to conduct a recruitment drive in China. Last month, we have already recruited 20 students from China.
MC: Why are you joining the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management Advisory Board?
Mark Zuckerberg: Firstly, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank Dean Qian. It was my honor to join the board. Education is one of my concerns and I give my full support to the education system in the United States. I hope by joining the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management Advisory Board, it would provide me with an opportunity to learn and support the education system in China.
MC: You have visited several countries these months, how was your schedule?
Mark Zuckerberg: I visited India, Indonesia, Korea and Japan this month. We wanted to encourage the usage of the Internet. For the majority of people who do not have the access for Internet, it’s because they have no reason to use the Internet. If you asked me—sorry, if I were to ask you—if you do not have a phone, computer or Internet and I asked you, ‘Do you want to use the Internet?’ You would probably ask me, ‘Why do I even need the Internet?’ So problems occur. But we need the Internet because it creates job opportunities and contributes to economic development. It is very important.
MC: You have been talking about connecting the world. When did this thought first came to your mind?
Mark Zuckerberg: In year 2004, I wanted to connect the people in Harvard. Actually I’ve always hoped to connect people all over the world. When I was a student, I ate pizza and talked about future with friends every night. After I founded Facebook, I told my friend I was glad to help students to connect to the world. Even though other companies like Google and Microsoft have many users, I believed that social media is very important. The other companies did not believe in us, but we did it and we have 13 hundred million users now.
MC: We have many students who dream of forming their own company, what would you suggest them?
Mark Zuckerberg: I think the best company was not founded by the founder who wanted a company but by those who wanted to change the world. If you start a company just because you want a company, you will have many goals in your mind, but you won’t be able to decide which is best. If you start with a bad goal, it will lead you to form a bad company. However, if you decide to change the world and start a company with that best goal, you will form a good company eventually.
MC: In the process of building your business, what is your secret to success?
Mark Zuckerberg: In my opinion, the most important thing is to never give up. Building a company is not easy; some of your plans would not go smoothly. Besides, you need to make difficult decisions, for example, layoff some staff. If you do not believe in your mission, giving up is very easy. Many founders do give up, but a successful founder never gives up. So believe in your mission and it is very important to never give up.
MC: What do you think about innovation in China?
Mark Zuckerberg: I think China has some of the most innovative companies. I had dinner with Lei Jun from the Xiaomi company. Xiaomi is a honest company that is growing rapidly. Xiaomi has good products and they are cheap. I think that Xiaomi is progressing tremendously. On the other hand, Tencent’s Wechat is doing well and most of the people from China use Wechat and QQ. So is Taobao. Taobao creates job opportunities. I think China has many innovative companies.
MC: Mark has a favorable impression about innovation in China. What is your plan with Facebook in China?
Mark Zuckerberg: We are already in China. We help companies in China grow their customers overseas. Companies in China use Facebook advertisements to connect with the world. Lenovo is advertising their new phone with us in Indonesia. I see economic growth in China. It is amazing! In addition, we want to help other countries all over the world to connect with China. Hangzhou and Qingdao have a Facebook page. We collaborate with these cities to spread the culture of China.
MC: I would like to ask you some personal questions about your life. What is your favorite colour?
Mark Zuckerberg: I can’t choose red or green, because Facebook is blue!
MC: What is your favorite Chinese food?
Mark Zuckerberg: I like the street snacks in Beijing but I also like the Bejing roasted duck.
MC: What are the activities you prefer besides work?
Mark Zuckerberg: I have no time for much activities besides work. However, I can cook.
MC: Do you have any pets?
Mark Zuckerberg: We have a dog called Beast and it is a Sheepdog.
MC: You created a Facebook page for your dog?
Mark Zuckerberg: Yes, and it has 2 million fans.
MC: Next question, who is better at Mandarin, you or your wife?
Mark Zuckerberg: In terms of vocabulary, I’m better than her but her listening skill is better than me. One day, I asked her why that is so and she replied ‘your listening skill is bad in English as well’.
Student: How did Facebook establish the competitive impact towards the other early social networking sites and what was the biggest challenge for Facebook? What moment did you decide to drop out of college to start your enterprise?
Mark Zuckerberg: When I was in my second year, I founded Facebook and attended college at the same time. Sometimes, the leader of Harvard asks me to go back, but it is impossible for me to go back now. Our biggest challenge was in year 2012; we needed to change Facebook into mobile company which we were not before. In year 2012, we were growing slowly, the revenue was slow and everybody was not happy about it. But after we changed Facebook into a mobile company, we had 7 hundred million mobile users on Facebook.
Student: From your perspective, what is the next biggest invention in technology after mobile network?
Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook is 10 years old this year. I wonder what we should develop in the next ten years. I think we have three points to develop. Firstly, we need to connect everybody with the world and we need everyone to use the Internet. Secondly, we want to develop Artificial Intelligence. Thirdly, I believe that the next platform will be virtual reality after the consumption of mobile phones. The Oculus is our first product and we hope to have many other products in the future.