Facebook says its new unit in China will help software developers to innovate
As censorship controls harden under Xi Jinping, US tech firms with blocked content are looking for new ways to enter the market without drawing the ire of regulators
Beijing — Facebook has set up a subsidiary in China with registered capital of $30m, according to an official business registration, hinting that the US firm may be ramping up its presence in the restrictive market where its social media sites remain blocked.
The subsidiary is registered in Hangzhou, home of e-commerce giant Alibaba, according to a filing approved on China’s National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System last week and seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
"We are interested in setting up an innovation hub in Zhejiang to support Chinese developers, innovators and start-ups," a Facebook representative said via e-mail.
Facebook’s website remains banned in China, which strictly censors foreign news outlets, search engines and social media including content from Twitter and Google.
Having a wholly foreign-owned enterprise in China does not change Facebook’s approach in the country, the company said, adding that it was still learning different approaches on what it took to be in China.
In 2017, Facebook’s messaging app WhatsApp was also blocked in the run-up to the country’s twice-a-decade congress, and it has remained mostly unavailable since.
The filing listed Facebook Hong Hong Ltd and no other entities as a shareholder.
While censorship controls have hardened under Xi Jinping, who was formally appointed president in 2013, US tech firms with blocked content are increasingly looking for new ways to enter the market without drawing the ire of regulators.
Google has several hundred staff in China, and recently launched its own artificial intelligence (AI) lab. It has also tentatively launched several apps for the Chinese market in recent months, including an AI drawing game and file management app.
Apple has also heavily modified its app stores to fit Chinese censorship restrictions in the past year, removing hundreds of apps at the request of regulators.
Facebook said its Chinese subsidiary would focus on training and workshops that would help software developers and entrepreneurs to innovate. The company has similar hubs in many countries including France, Brazil, India and Korea.