China to Meta: Flattery needed to get you into our VR market

Beijing likes Zuck's old stuff better than his new stuff

Chinese state media has published a sternly worded opinion piece that makes it plain Meta's ambition to sell its VR hardware in the Middle Kingdom is unlikely to succeed – because, unlike his fellow tech titans, he hasn't been nice to China.

China artificial intelligence

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This story starts in The Wall Street Journal which earlier this week reported Meta is in talks with Chinese web giant Tencent to bring its Quest VR headset to China. T has faced resistance due to some of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's previous utterances that weren't favorable to the CCP regime.

State media outlet Beijing News, in a piece run under the byline of a columnist who seldom if ever diverts from the party line, noted that WSJ piece, and mentions Zuck's past criticism of China, attacks on TikTok, and assertion that China conducts and condones IP theft.

That stance was contrasted with the approach shown by Apple's Tim Cook and Tesla's Elon Musk, who the piece points out both shied away from the sort of commentary Zuck has offered – and can point to booming balance sheets and soaring stock prices.

Zuck could have that too, the piece suggests, if only he reverted to 2014-era Zuck, who famously made a speech in Mandarin and said he even speaks it at home to his now-wife Priscilla's grandmother.

The column includes a metaphor that translates as "After smashing the wok, Zuck still wants to eat Chinese food."

The columnist points out that Meta's VR kit is the subject of many tepid reviews, and that Chinese companies have made product that's been better received.


The piece demonstrates that China understands very well that the colossal size of its consumer market gives it power. But by pointing out that Facebook has never been welcome in China, it also reveals that Beijing has zero tolerance for platforms it can't control – which is essentially why Google wore out its welcome in China and quit the country. And why Elon Musk's Twitter isn't welcome, even if Tesla is.

The piece creates a rare moment when it feels possible to cheer for Mark Zuckerberg. Meta shareholders may feel differently, given the billions he's directed towards VR research without generating strong indications it will pay off anywhere – never mind in China. ®

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