Posted by Zach Galant, ’12
China blocked access to Facebook last summer, and it is to this day unavailable for Chinese users. Along with Facebook, China has blocked access to Twitter, censored search results from Google, and blocked other websites deemed inappropriate by the government. Many of these sites are Western sites, especially social media sites from American companies. My research involves analyzing the mindset of the Chinese in relation to Westerners to try to determine a good strategy for doing business in China.
In this blog post, I want to focus on an article I read called “The Best Strategy For Facebook: Forget About China.” Forget about China? Really? First of all, I believe this is a very strong statement, especially given Facebook’s success all over the world, basically everywhere except China. However, it does have some merit.
This article is written by Gang Lu, who has worked in China for Netvibes, a social personalized dashboard homepage. Netvibes did not find success in China, which is a bias that is necessary to consider when reading this article. It could mean that Lu has extra insight because of his experience, but it could also taint his opinions because he doesn’t think someone else can succeed where he failed.
One of the main points he has is that China acts differently. They have different values than Americans do. He mentions that Netvibes’ product was too advanced for China. This doesn’t mean that Chinese people can’t handle advanced technology. It is just commenting on their different perspective on what type of product they appreciate or want.
The other thing he mentioned is that there are tons of local Chinese companies that are doing exactly the same thing. Google, for example, isn’t nearly as popular as Baidu in China, though it is dominant in the US. Chinese people see Facebook and notice how it looks similar to Chinese services like Xiaonei and Kaixin001, even though they are the copies. It’s much harder to succeed in China when the people think it’s a copy of their local companies’ products.
While these arguments are convincing (not to mention that Facebook’s translation in Chinese, 非死不可 – in Pinyin: FeiSiBuKe, means Dooms to Die) I am not totally convinced that there is a good strategy for Facebook and other internet companies for dealing with China.