Last week, executives from the Chinese search engine Baidu flew to the United States to meet with Facebook in their Silicon Valley offices. While the trip was kept quiet, and Baidu representatives have yet to comment publicly, both Chinese and U.S. news services have confirmed the story. The speculation about whether Facebook will penetrate China's great firewall abounds.
Last December, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg traveled to China, including a stop at Baidu's offices. Interestingly enough, last week Facebook also opened a new sales office in Hong Kong. While ads for Chinese businesses does not necessarily constitute opening up the 457 million Chinese Internet users to Facebook, it certainly gives the social giant a stronger foothold into the market.
While Facebook did launch a Chinese language version back in 2008, currently Facebook is blocked by the Chinese government. There has been no official reason for the blockage on record.
Conversely, Baidu CEO Robin Li plans to enter "dozens of markets" outside China and Japan over the next 5 to 10 years. Baidu recognizes their need to grow and their CEO acknowledged the company cannot wait. He also noted Facebook should consider re-entering the Chinese market in the "proper way."
Many U.S. Internet and technology companies have tried and failed. Google is one of those companies. Google, however, cited a Chinese cyber attack on theirs and over 30 other companies' systems as their reason for ending operations in China.
If Chinese hacker cyber attacks have caused Google to have concerns about China, should the Internet community be concerned about Facebook opening operations in China? Quite frankly, Facebook has had numerous security issues.
Would opening up the Great Firewall expose more security issues? And with recent tensions between Google and Facebook, would Facebook be willing to share any privacy breaches from Chinese hackers like Google did? Would Google be willing to come to their aid?