Robin Li

China: Facebook's undiscovered country

January 17, 2011: 3:00 AM ET

If Mark Zuckerberg wants in on the biggest boom country in Asia, the social networking champ will have to make some tough choices about what kind of company he wants Facebook to be.

"Like" it, hate it, or just plain don't care, there's no denying the Facebook effect. In six years, the social networking site has usurped both Friendster and MySpace and amassed nearly 600 million registered users who access it in more than 200 countries across six continents, from Tunisia to Qatar.

But there's one huge country where the site has failed to make headway -- China. Where America represented the land of opportunity to immigrants during the first half of the 20th century, China now represents the country with the most untapped potential for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. Facebook used to have a presence there, but for the better part of two years, the site has been mostly inaccessible, thanks to government censorship. And given Facebook's incredible penetration statistics in the U.S., China's 420 million Internet users represent a pretty large pool for a company still in an aggressive growth stage to have to pass up.

That's probably why the idea of a Chinese Facebook presence is so tantalizing for Zuckerberg, who visited the country last December. Though vacationing with his girlfriend, the CEO also found time to meet with tech companies, including Robin Li, CEO of Chinese search engine giant Baidu. More

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