Beijing, China – Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, gave a 20-minute speech in Mandarin at the Tsinghua University in Beijing this weekend.

Zuckerberg shows off his improving Mandarin Chinese skills with a 20 minute speech. Credit: TechCrunch

“This was also my first real speech in any language sharing how I started thinking about Facebook’s mission, what has kept me going through challenging times and what our mission means now looking ahead for our community of 1.5 billion people,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page.

Non-Chinese speakers attending to the event were given simultaneous translation. A year ago, he did a 30-minute Q&A at Tsinghua University, where he sits on the board of the School of Economics and Management.

Zuckerberg has been studying the language for five years now, and recently tested his Mandarin skills with Chinese President Xi Jinping, looking to improve the company’s business ideas in a country where his products are blocked by Chinese censors. Nevertheless, Zuckerberg said he learned the language to communicate with his wife’s paternal grandmother.

After a group of activists used the site to communicate during riots in the city of Urumqi, China’s government blocked the access to it, and has remained like that since July 2009. Companies such as LinkedIn had to modify its content to adapt to the censorship of the country.

In May, the company opened an ad sales office, aiming to help local businesses that want to get to consumers outside of China. However, more than 600 million Chinese internet users can not log in the social network. Websites such as Twitter and Youtube are also blocked.

Some of the attendants said that Zuckerberg has improved his vocabulary since the Q&A session, although he needs to keep working on his pronunciation. Nevertheless, he seemed to be satisfied with the presentation.

Zuckerberg even employed popular Chinese proverbs, trying to approach to the Chinese market in the same way as foreign CEO’s do in the U.S. by speaking fluent English. Experts say this may set a new model for many companies that can not operate in China.

“There is a good Chinese saying, which says that if you work at it hard enough, you can grind an iron bar into a needle. If you keep working hard, you will change the world,” Zuckerberg said on the speech.

The social network CEO shared with the students the story of how he started the company on Harvard, as he also talked about the history of China and their wisdom as a nation, calling the country a “nation historically known for innovation”.

This offensive from Facebook has been largely covered in China, as the state news have covered comments made on Facebook —ignoring the fact that Chinese can not see these posts—, the U.S. trip made by President Xi Jinping was publicized on the social network and the fact that Zuckerberg is a member of the board suggests that this approach from Facebook’s CEO could work for them.

Source: LA Time