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Mark Zuckerberg made his first public appearance speaking Mandarin Chinese today at Tsinghua University in Beijing. I’ve translated the entire interview below. He tackled a broad range of issues and even fielded student questions. Enjoy!
NB: Quartz.com has an alternate translation of some of the key passages. You should be able to find a transcription of the Chinese with a Google search. If there are mistakes in my translation, please don’t hesitate to point them out!
Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management
2014 Advisory Board Meeting
Tsinghua Students’ Dialogue with Board Members [of the Advisory Board]
Tsinghua x-lab Session
Host Wei Xiaoliang (魏小亮):
(in English) Now let’s introduce the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.
(in Mandarin) Hello everyone. I’m happy to be here. (applause) I’m happy to come to Beijing. I love this city. My Chinese is terrible, but today I’ll try speaking Chinese. Ok? (applause) I might need practice.
Mark, everyone is really surprised that you can speak Chinese. Why did you want to learn Chinese?
Really interesting. (laughter) There are three reasons. Second… First, my wife is Chinese. (applause) Her family speaks Chinese and her grandmother speaks only Chinese. So, I want to communicate with them. Two years ago, Priscilla [Chan] and I decided to get married. So I told her grandmother– in Chinese. She was very surprised. (laughter)
Priscilla is your wife?
Yeah. Second, I think it’s that I want to study Chinese culture. China is a great nation. I think learning the language helps me study the culture. So I study the language. Third, Mandarin is hard. I only speak English, but I like a challenge. (applause)
So, how about tonight we challenge him? I’ll speak in Chinese. How many times have you been to China?
Four times. I’ve been to Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin…
Tianjin? Why did you go to Tianjin?
I see, so you’re a big fan of Huo Yuanjia, so you will go see his hometown. So which city do you like best?
All of them [unclear]. Maybe I like Beijing the most. In all China… it has a lot of history.
So this time in China, what’s your plan?
This time in China, what’s your plan?
This week I’m joining the Advisory Board of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management. I came to take part in the Advisory Board meeting. I think Tsinghua students are great. Facebook has more than 140 Tsinghua alumni. You are one! (indicating host) Every year, we recruit the best engineers in China. Just last week we recruited 20 Chinese students.
Right, just last month we recruited 20 Chinese students and soon they will come over to Facebook to work. So, could you talk about why you wanted to join the Advisory Board of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management?
First, I have to thank Dean Qian [Yingyi 钱颖一]. Yeah, and, I’m honored to join the Advisory Board of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management. I’m very interested in education. In the USA, I’ve done a lot of things to support education. I wanted to take part in this committee [because it’s] a great opportunity for me to learn about and support education in China.
Great. Mark wants to support Chinese education. (applause) This month, you also went to quite a few different countries. What is the purpose of this trip?
I’ve been to India, Indonesia, Korea, and Japan. We want to help more people use the Internet. Today, most of the world–65% or about five billion people–don’t have Internet. Some people–about 15%–don’t have a network. About 35% of people have never used a network. But most people who don’t have the Internet don’t have it because they don’t know why they [would] want to use the Internet. If you asked me–sorry, if I asked you, if you don’t have a computer, a phone, or the Internet and I asked you, “Do you want to use the Internet?” You might ask me, “Why would I want to use the Internet?” So there are lots of problems. But we need to connect the world. The Internet creates job opportunities and economic development. It’s very important.
Connecting the world is something Mark takes very seriously. You want to connect the world. When did you begin to want to connect the world?
In 2004, I created the first version of Facebook because I wanted to connect all the students at Harvard. I have always thought there should be a product to connect the whole world, but I thought other companies [would] do it. I remember when I was a college student, every evening my friends and I would eat pizza and talk about the future. Long ago, after I created the first version [of Facebook], I told my friends, “I’m really happy we’ve helped connect students, but [there should be] a product to connect the world.” But we [were] just students. I thought another company [would] do it. I thought perhaps Google, Microsoft, or another company. They had more than ten thousand programmers and more than one hundred million users. We [were] just students. However, we’ve always believed that social media are very powerful. Other companies didn’t believe it. We’ve believed that all along, so we built one. Now, we have 1.3 billion users.
So in the last ten years, Mark built a truly amazing company. Mark, there are a lot of students here who want to start companies. What kind of advice to you have for them?
Start a company? I think the best companies are started not because the founders want to start a company, but because the founders want to change the world. (applause) If you decide that you want to start a company, you might start to develop your first idea. You might recruit a lot of employees. But you might have lots of ideas. You don’t know which idea is the best. If your first idea is bad, then your company is bad. But, if you decide to change the world, shouldn’t you come up with many ideas? If any idea is good, then you create a company.
Great advice. Wait until your idea is good, then create a company. So, in the process of creating Facebook, what was the secret to your success?
I think the best thing is that you can’t give up. Developing a company is hard. Most things won’t go smoothly. You will need to make difficult decisions; you will need to fire some employees.
Are you saying you’re going to fire me today? (laughter)
So, if you don’t believe in your mission, it is easy to give up. Most entrepreneurs give up, but the best entrepreneurs don’t. So believing in your mission and not giving up are very important.
It’s safe to say you are one of the most successful entrepreneurs. What thoughts do you have about innovation in China?
Yes, yes, yes.
Xiaomi is a very innovative company. They are developing quickly and have lots of different products. They’re cheap. (laughter) I think Xiaomi will grow quickly. Tencent’s WeChat is also huge. Most Chinese people use WeChat or QQ. Taobao is also very innovative. Taobao creates job opportunities. I think China has many of the world’s most innovative companies.
So Mark really has a good feeling about innovation in our China. Speaking of China, I’m going to ask Mark a relatively difficult question. Will I get fired today? So, what’s your plan for Facebook in China? (applause) A difficult question.
We’re already in China. (laughter) We help Chinese companies get more overseas customers. They use Facebook ads to find more customers. For example, Lenovo uses Facebook ads in Indonesia to sell new phones. I forgot, Lenovo’s [unclear]. Yeah, that one. In China I also see economic development. We’re very impressed. It’s amazing. So we want to help other places in the world connect to China. Like great cities, national parks… Hangzhou and Qingdao also have great pages on Facebook. We work with these cities to develop pages and share Chinese culture.
Great, and this difficult a question Mark answered with just one sentence. Let’s give him a round of applause. (applause) After a difficult question, let’s take it easy a bit. I’ll ask Mark some personal questions, easier questions, so he can give us some details of his [personal] life. So how about we ask you some questions about your personal life?
First question: what colors do you like?
I can’t see red or green, because Facebook is blue. (Note: Mark is red-green colorblind.)
What kind of Chinese food do you like?
When I’m in Beijing, I always eat Beijing street food (lit. hútóng xiǎochī), but I also like Beijing roast duck.
No wonder you like Beijing so much, you like Beijing street food and Beijing duck. So, outside of work, what kind of activities do you do?
I have no time outside [of work]. (laughter)
Ok, I cook with Priscilla.
I recall you also have a pet?
We have a dog. His name is Beast. He’s a [Hungarian] sheepdog. He’s really short. I love him.
You also made a page for Beast.
I develop Beast’s page. Beast has 2 million fans.
The next question is also hard. Between you and Priscilla, whose Chinese is better?
In Mandarin, I can say more words, but she also speaks Cantonese. Her listening comprehension is better than mine. My listening is really bad. One day I asked her, “Why is my listening so bad?” and she told me, “Your listening is bad in English, too!”
Thank you so much Mark. We still have some time, so why don’t we invite one or two students to ask some questions?
Should I use English or Chinese? Chinese? (asks a question in Mandarin, translated below)
How did you start Facebook, and…
You asked me…
(translates her own question into English) How did Facebook establish a competitive edge toward other social network sites and what was the biggest challenge? And the second question is at what moment did you get a leap of faith and decide to leave school and devote [yourself to] your enterprise?
(in Mandarin) Second question: I was really fortunate. I never decided to leave. Harvard students can take temporary leave, so I created the first version of Facebook, and the second year it was too much to develop Facebook and go to class, so I was really fortunate in that I just took temporary leave and didn’t go to class. I’m still a Harvard student. From time to time, Harvard’s leader asks me, or tells me, “You can come back.” But now I can’t go back.
First question: the biggest challenge. Our biggest challenge perhaps was in 2012, when we needed to make Facebook a mobile company. Before, we weren’t one. In 2012, our growth was very slow, and our monetary growth was very slow, and everyone was unhappy. However, we made Facebook into a mobile company, and now we have more than one billion users using Facebook on their mobile phones.
(in English) My name is Yang Zhilun, from the school of social work, and also a member of the x-lab. I’m very glad to ask a question. From the Internet and mobile Internet, we know that the progress of science and technology has greatly accelerated our human society, especially the revolution [sic]. From your perspective, what is the next big advance in technology?
Very interesting. This year Facebook is ten years old.
Ten years? (Note: “Ten” sounds a lot like “four” in Mandarin.)
So I ask, in the next ten years, what should we develop? I decided what are the next things we will develop. First, we need to connect the whole world. We need to help all people use the Internet. Second, we want to develop “artificial intelligence.”
(in Mandarin) Artificial intelligence.（人工智能）
I don’t know [that word in Chinese]. I think ten years from now, computers will be better than humans at seeing, listening comprehension, and language, so we’ve developing that. Third, once everyone is using mobile phones, I believe the next platform is “virtual reality.” I don’t know how to say that [in Chinese] either.
(in Mandarin) Virtual reality. （虚拟现实）
Oculus is the first product, but we want to have many products.
(End of video.)
It was after that I felt a boredom I had never before experienced. At first I didn’t know why; later I thought it’s always such that when a person’s convictions receive praise it spurs their progress; receive opposition and it spurs their struggle. Only when screaming among strangers, when those strangers do not react—at once no praise, and no opposition—as if finding oneself placed on and endless wasteland, with no recourse at all: what sadness is this! Thus I assumed what I was felt was loneliness.
– Lu Xun, Preface to Nahan [Outcry/A Call to Arms] (1922)
I always come back to reading Lu Xun. He was too influential to overlook and too good to want to. His writing is clear and straightforward and sometimes I get the illusion he is writing in the present day, like I do reading Natsume Soseki. Lu Xun reminds me of Soseki in his mix of earnestness and satire; there I times I laugh out loud reading The True Story of Ah-Q or I Am a Cat. Another interesting connection I’ve noted is the number of Japanese words in Lu Xun’s writing, such as 便當 ‘convenient’ and 卒業 ‘to graduate.’ I don’t know whether these words were common in some register of Chinese and later fell out of use, or if Lu Xun borrowed them from Japanese, or both.
In any case, Lu Xun presents himself in the self-written preface to Nahan as a lonely idealist hoping to change minds but feeling lost. He tries to lose himself in copying ancient engravings until a friend persuades him to write a little something for a magazine called The New Youth. What he wrote became A Madman’s Diary and the rest is history.
NB: The translation above is mine.
In the summer of 2011, I took a two month trip in China that I chronicled on kiroma. Recently I posted photos from Shanghai and photos from Suzhou. I now live in China as a student at Fudan University. Before starting school, I took a two week trip with Joy to Yunnan and Guizhou that took us to Lijiang, Dali, and Kunming, and me to Qujing, Huangguoshu, Anshun, Guiyang, and Chongqing.
We began our journey in Yunnan by flying to the stunning modern airport in the provincial capital, Kunming. Walking out on the street our first day in town, we came across the enchanting Yuantong Temple, an old and very active Buddhist temple. It was late August, just in time for the Yu Lan festival, also known as the “Ghost Festival.” We burned joss sticks, paper and candles as offerings but were not able to take part in the chanting at the main hall. A large crowd of worshippers were gathered to make offerings before the altar. They prayed under a large tent. We passed a few monks walking around the grounds, and a portion of the entryway was under construction. Below are my photographs from Yuantong Temple.
I am back in the United States for winter vacation. While I am away from China, I would like to share some of my photos from places in China I visited in 2011. From May to August 2011, I traveled in China and kept a record of blog posts here posted almost in real-time. I came to find that writing and posting blog entries in real-time was quite a challenge, and I was unable to upload photos. (My previous posts are available on this blog under the category “China 2011.”)
It has been a year and half since I made a two-month trip in China. Today I would like to share my photos from Suzhou, a provincial-level city in Jiangsu province, west of Shanghai, with a population of about 10 million. Suzhou has a rich history, and its gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can read my posts about Suzhou from June 2011 here:
Please enjoy the photos.
“A Tree That Took Flight”
At the plain’s edge
Right at the cliff over the valley
Stood a tree we wished at for good luck
Watching our comings and goings
That tree towered over us all
Its bark was rubbed smooth
Where small hands could reach
Inside it was too tangled to fathom
Once the wind howled
And at the dawn’s light
That tree was nowhere to be found
“A Tree on a Bluff”
Kieran Maynard (after Zēng Zhuō)
I know not what wind brought this tree
to this flatland’s edge on the bluff;
She listens for the far forest’s clamor
And signing of streams in the rough
It stands by itself all alone
Looking obstinate, and lonely;
Its body a mass of tangles,
It keeps the shape of the wind,
seems about to cave in,
and yet soon to spread wings and take flight.
“Tree on a Bluff”
(“Xuányá biān de shù”)
Zēng Zhuō (1922-2002)
I do not know what strange wind
blew a tree over there——
the end of a plain
on a crag overlooking the valley
It listens closely to the clamor of a far forest
and the singing of streams in the valley
It stands there alone
looking obstinate, and forlorn
Its crooked body
retains the shape of the wind
It looks ready to fall off into the valley
and yet about to spread wings and take flight……