Facebook is poised to open an office in China, one of the few territories where the global giant is not allowed to operate its social media platform. The move comes despite China’s growing control of the Internet within its own borders.
Facebook filed a company registration in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, the hometown of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. The company’s sole disclosed shareholder is Facebook Hong Kong. Initial capital is $30 million.
In reports initially carried by the Reuters news agency, Facebook described the Chinese venture as an innovation hub to support Chinese developers, innovators and startups. It has similar research facilities in India, South Korea, France and Brazil.
Facebook is currently banned from operating its eponymous network in China, where the government exercises strict control of social media sites and requires foreign tech companies to maintain servers in the country. China’s social media firms cooperate with government censors and maintain large teams of staff to scrutinize and edit user comments. The Facebook-owned messaging service Whatsapp became partially unavailable in China before last year’s Communist Party Congress, which is held once every five years.
Despite the obstacles, Facebook has been keen to operate in China. Founder Mark Zuckerberg has learned Chinese and frequently attended conferences in China.
Last month, Facebook told a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that four of its 60 past data-sharing agreements were with Chinese hardware manufacturers. “Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO and TCL were controlled from the get-go, and we approved the Facebook experiences these companies built,” Francisco Varela, VP of mobile partnerships for Facebook, said in a statement in June.
But the company said that the agreements, covering application program interfaces, were being terminated.
In a recent interview with tech publication Recode, Zuckerberg suggested that Chinese companies “do not share the values we have.”