Mark Zuckerberg Meets Chinese Businessmen, but Would Facebook Ever Take Off in China?

In light of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s closely-watched trip to China, the Christian Science Monitor asks if the company has any chance of succeeding in the country, where it is now blocked:

Zuckerberg’s schedule has sparked widespread speculation that he has come to China, home to the world’s largest internet population, with business in mind. Facebook is blocked by government censors in China, and Zuckerberg’s stated goal of “making the world more open and connected” will be hard to realize if one quarter of the world’s population cannot get onto his site.

But it is not clear that Facebook would succeed in China as it has succeeded almost everywhere else in the world even if the company were allowed to operate here, some analysts say.

With nearly 100 Chinese social networking sites already operating, dominated by a handful of market leaders, “the market is very mature with a lot of good products that work well for Chinese consumers” says Bill Bishop, an internet investor in Beijing.

Google, eBay, Yahoo, and other US internet companies have all had difficulty adapting to China, and none have achieved market leadership. “That has more to do with cultural issues than government regulation” says Mr. Bishop.

If Facebook had been allowed to compete from the start, rather than suffer intermittent and then permanent inaccessibility, “it would have succeeded for the same reasons it has succeeded elsewhere” argues Kai Lukoff, an internet entrepreneur in Shanghai.

See also “Digits Live Show: Will Facebook Friend Request China?” from the Wall Street Journal blog and “Facebook’s Zuckerberg Visits China Microblog Operator Sina” from PC World.