Mark Zuckerberg was in Beijing as a newly appointed member of the advisory board for Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management.
As part of that role, Mark Zuckerberg met students for a 30-minute chat, which he conducted in Mandarin.
Facebook founder’s attempt to woo the audience by speaking Mandarin has had mixed reviews from Chinese speakers.
There was plenty of reaction to his attempts to communicate in Chinese.
“It’s hard to describe in English what Zuckerberg’s Mandarin sounded like but I’d put it roughly at the level of someone who studied for two years in college, which means he can communicate like an articulate seven-year-old with a mouth full of marbles,” one blogger wrote.
Others commented: “Oh my god… this is terrible… but apart from the tones, he seems to have learnt the vocabulary and grammar pretty well.”
News outlet Quartz described Mark Zuckerberg’s 30-minute chat as making him sound “like someone was stepping on his face”.
One tonal slip-up led Mark Zuckerberg to claim that Facebook had just 11 mobile users instead of one billion.
While most agreed that his pronunciation was far from fluent, most were also impressed that he had attempted it at all.
Mark Zuckerberg, who is married to Chinese-American Priscilla Chan, set himself the goal of learning Mandarin in 2010, in part so that he could communicate with Priscilla’s relatives.
Facebook as a company is also keen to improve relationships with China. There is currently a ban on the use of the social media site, which dates since 2009.
There was no explicit chat about the ban and Mark Zuckerberg described China as a “great country”.
“The Chinese language is difficult, and I speak English, but I like challenges,” he said.
On Facebook’s future in China, Mark Zuckerberg was diplomatic: “We are already in China. We help Chinese companies gain customers abroad. We want to help the rest of the world connect to China.”
Fellow chief executive – Apple’s Tim Cook – was also in China, questioning officials about an alleged hack of its iCloud service.
Tim Cook will attend a meeting at Beijing’s Tsinghua University with Mark Zuckerberg later in the week.
Meanwhile he has had talks with the vice premier of China to discuss protecting user data in the wake of recent alleged hack attacks targeting iCloud users.
The attacks were revealed by Chinese activist group GreatFire.org, which accused the Chinese government of being involved.
iCloud user data was collected by creating a spoof icloud.com website.
Tim Cook also used the trip to China to visit Foxconn’s iPhone factory and said that the company would open 25 retail stores in China in the next two years.
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