China Seeks Revenge Against Mark Zuckerberg and Meta in Bitter Tech Battle
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and it seems China is taking this old adage to heart as it seeks vengeance against Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and founder of Meta (formerly known as Facebook). A social media account operated by Beijing Daily, which has a massive following, recently took aim at the American tech mogul.
Zuckerberg’s company is making efforts to enter the Chinese market by selling virtual reality (VR) gear. However, it appears that things won’t go smoothly for Meta. The Beijing Daily account shared an opinion piece that highlighted Zuckerberg’s role in lobbying Congress to ban TikTok, one of Meta’s major competitors owned by the Beijing-based ByteDance.
The piece also brought attention to instances where Zuckerberg criticized TikTok for censorship during a speech at Georgetown University and accused China of intellectual property theft during a congressional hearing. It called for China to completely cut ties with Zuckerberg. The article suggests that Chinese officials might heed this call. It seems that Zuckerberg was not only trying to undermine his competition but also expressing his frustration with China’s lack of support for his endeavors over the years.
To understand this situation, we have to go back to July 2009 when the Urumqi riots erupted in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Facebook was among the main platforms used by the rioters to organize their activities. Consequently, the Chinese government blocked Facebook and other US social media apps. Most Chinese people saw this as a necessary measure against terrorism in their country. In 2014, Instagram was also blocked for fueling separatist protests in Hong Kong.
Despite facing resistance in China, Zuckerberg and Facebook tried to establish a relationship with Lu Wei, the then-head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, in the same year. During that meeting, Zuckerberg strategically placed President Xi Jinping’s book, ‘The Governance of China’, on his desk for reporters to see. He also met with a senior Communist Party of China leader in 2016 to discuss creating a better global community in cyberspace. These gestures may have been intended to bridge the gap, but they came across as awkward and desperate attempts.
Zuckerberg heavily invested in personal connections and understanding Chinese culture, given that his wife is Chinese, in an attempt to gain an advantage over his American peers like Google and Microsoft in the Chinese market. However, Beijing remained unimpressed and made it clear that Zuckerberg’s charm offensive was ineffective. This lack of success is understandable considering that even the EU, Australia, and other Western-aligned countries are cracking down on Meta for data mishandling and the spread of disinformation.
Zuckerberg’s frustration led him to take a swing at TikTok, not only for business reasons but also on a personal level. Banning his biggest competitor from the US market would not only help Meta recover from recent losses but also serve as a vindication for President Xi’s refusal to play baby-naming games with Chinese charm. However, for Beijing, the ban on Meta’s products in China was driven by national interests rather than personal grudges. With President Xi’s stance on anti-corruption, it was clear that Zuckerberg’s attempts to cozy up would not yield the desired results. Zuckerberg’s strategies, which may work in Washington, did not align well with China’s political landscape.
Despite all the time and effort wasted on trying to win favor in Beijing, Zuckerberg committed an unforgivable sin by opportunistically siding with the US national security state against China. Beijing noticed and won’t easily forgive or forget. If Beijing decides to intervene in Meta’s Quest VR deal with Tencent, Zuckerberg can only blame himself. Many of us can’t help but find this both well-deserved and amusing.
In the end, the moral of the story is that revenge is most satisfying when served with a touch of irony. Zuckerberg, in his pursuit of dominance in the Chinese market, ended up experiencing his own medicine. Better luck next time, Zuck, and remember, it’s not just about business – it’s about knowing when not to poke the dragon.
Disclaimer: The statements, views, and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.