The American online social media and social networking service company – Facebook – who has never been able to court China – has finally gained an official status in the country — albeit temporarily. They have gained this temporary status after trying for a decade!
A report in the The New York Times stated that Facebook has registered a subsidiary in the city of Hangzhou, according to a Chinese Government filing, which said the company had gotten approval on July 18 last. The subsidiary was financed with an investment of $30 million, according to the records.
The report further stated that late on Tuesday, in a sign of possible complications, the corporate registration was taken down from the Chinese Government website, and some references to the new subsidiary appeared to be censored on social media in the country.
The moves indicated how complicated it remains for Facebook to navigate China, where it has been blocked for almost 10 years. If the subsidiary is allowed to proceed, it will be a toe in the water here for the Silicon Valley company. Facebook said it wanted to use the subsidiary to coordinate with Chinese developers in the closely censored market.
Even to release an app in China, Facebook is likely to need a separate license from regulators. To go further and introduce one of its larger products, like its social network or messaging service, would require further negotiations over issues like data storage and security. Facebook’s photo-sharing service, Instagram, and its messaging platform, WhatsApp, are also blocked in China.
“We are interested in setting up an innovation hub in Zhejiang to support Chinese developers, innovators and start-ups,” said Debbie Frost, a Facebook spokeswoman, referring to the province in eastern China where Hangzhou is. “We have done this in several parts of the world — France, Brazil, India, Korea — and our efforts would be focused on training and workshops that help these developers and entrepreneurs to innovate and grow.”
The ruling Chinese Communist Party deems all social networks that it does not ultimately control, like Facebook and Twitter, as “potentially destabilizing”. A series of sophisticated Internet filters block residents from gaining access to such sites.