Facebook is said to be preparing to open its first office in China, where the world’s largest social network remains officially banned.
The Silicon Valley company has had an office in Hong Kong where it sells ads, but it’s looking to lease a space on the mainland, in Beijing’s central business district, according to Bloomberg. The sales office would help Facebook serve local advertisers, the report says.
Facebook’s interest in China is obvious; COO Sheryl Sandberg visited last year as part of her “Lean In” book tour, but she also met with government officials, as our own Brandon Bailey wrote.
U.S. tech companies have had a tough time in China, home to a huge, mostly untapped market but also to tight government control and censorship. For example, Google, which enjoys search dominance in many other parts of the world, has largely given up there after years of censorship battles with the Chinese government. The company also has accused China of hacking into Gmail.
But there have been some changes as China tries to attract foreign investment. As we wrote in the fall, Facebook, Twitter and other sites are now officially A-OK in Shanghai’s free-trade zone. Also earlier this year, LinkedIn — the professional social network has had a presence in China for the past few years — announced a Chinese-language website there.
Could a Facebook ad-sales office in China lead to further expansion there? “The government is still quite concerned about social instability,” Shaun Rein, managing director at China Market Research Group in Shanghai, told Bloomberg. “I don’t think you are going to see any access for Facebook anytime soon.”
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