Zuckerberg’s VR headset ambitions may not be welcome in China

The Wall Street Journal reported on July 3 that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is now in talks with Tencent to bring Meta’s VR headset Quest 3 to the Chinese market.

An influential news account on WeChat lashed out at Zuckerberg shortly after on July 5, saying the Meta CEO had already “broken the pot” with regards to China, using a slang term that implies to “bungle” or completely scupper one’s chances.

The article reminded readers of Zuckerberg’s previous negative comments about the Chinese tech sector.  At a US congressional hearing into social media and misinformation in 2020, Zuckerberg said “I think it’s well documented that the Chinese government steals technology from American companies.”. His counterparts at the hearing, the CEOs of Apple, Google, and Amazon, had not echoed these clear-cut sentiments.

The writer of the WeChat article went on to suggest Zuckerberg’s previously friendly relationship with China was a facade. “Now that the rapid rise of TikTok overseas threatens the dominance of the social media empire that Zuckerberg has built, he is tearing off his mask and removing his disguise.”

A tech analyst Liu Dingding told the Global Times, “In view of Zuckerberg’s previous remarks, he should demonstrate sincerity to Chinese consumers, or learn from Elon Musk and Bill Gates.”

Gates and Musk both recently visited China in June with Musk receiving a particularly enthusiastic reception from the Chinese public. Musk’s trip included a meeting with foreign minister Qin Gang, in which Musk expressed his opposition to US-China “decoupling”. Gates praised China’s achievements in poverty reduction when meeting with Xi Jinping, who referred to the entrepreneur and philanthropist as an “old friend”.

Chinese consumers are known to boycott foreign companies and famous individuals who “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”, so it is hard to imagine Zuckerberg was not aware of the potential fallout when he spoke before Congress in 2020. He may be betting that a groundbreaking headset will be enough to right those wrongs.  


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