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Facebook May Breach the Great Firewall of China

Social networking could gain 1.3 billion new users if a deal goes through that will introduce Facebook to ChinaFacebook Inc. has signed an agreement with Baidu, Inc.  a search engine company, to create a social-networking website in China.  “We are currently studying and learning about China, as part of evaluating any possible approaches that could benefit our users, developers and advertisers,” Palo Alto, CA- based Facebook said.

The arrangement follows several recent meetings in China between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Baidu CEO Robin Li.  The Baidu website would not be incorporated with Facebook’s international service, and a potential launch date is “not confirmed.”  Facebook said it is “currently studying and learning about China, as part of evaluating any possible approaches that could benefit our users, developers and advertisers.”  By entering the Chinese market, where the world’s most popular social-networking service is currently banned, Facebook would gain access to the nation’s nearly 500 million Internet users.

According to Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry of MSNBC Business Insider, “The deal makes sense for both sides. On Facebook’s side, it needs a big local partner to break into the huge Chinese market. On Baidu’s side, it is threatened by social network juggernaut Tencent, and it might be a safer bet to build a social network with one of the most successful social companies in the world than to try to build its own.”

Baidu, which is China’s largest search engine, wants to provide more social networking opportunities in China.  The impediment has been the Chinese State, which owns the “Great Firewall of China” and has blocked sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  Google removed its search engine last year.

Writing on the website Digital Trend, Molly McHugh is curious about how Facebook can compete if it enters the Chinese market.  “Facebook has been blocked in China since 2009, when riots in the country’s Xinjiang region led to severe crackdowns on Internet use.  Since then, statements from Chinese officials and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have hinted at the possibility of cooperation between the two, if a compromise between the nation’s overbearing censorship and Facebook’s ‘openness’ can be reached.  Now it looks as though something is going on.  What exactly that may be is still up in the air, but numerous reports say Facebook is working with China to come up with a solution.

“According to Marbridge Consulting, as well as a few blogs,” according to McHugh, “a post on Sina Weibo from Hu Yan Ping, the founder of a Chinese market research firm claims that Facebook will be collaborating with Baidu to build an entirely new social networking site.  Ping wrote, ‘Facebook really is about to enter China, the agreement is signed.  A domestic website will work with Facebook to create a new site.  This new site is not interlinked with Facebook.com.  The question is, will this live or die in China?'”

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