BEIJING, Oct 20 (Reuters) - China’s Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management has added three western business heavyweights to its advisory council including Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook Inc founder who has long sought to enter the Chinese market where his social network is currently banned.
Zuckerberg - who was named to the board along with Virginia Rometty, the IBM chief executive, and Anheuser-Busch InBev SA CEO Carlos Brito - will attend the business school’s annual board meeting in Beijing on Friday, Facebook said.
The business school board, with its extensive connections to the central government, has long served as a social network of sorts and an informal meeting ground for Chinese policymakers and international businesspeople seeking closer ties to China.
Founded in 1984 by Zhu Rongji, who went on to serve as premier of China, Tsinghua’s business school has several dozen board members including Chinese central banker Zhou Xiaochuan, Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and Apple Inc chief executive Tim Cook.
Zuckerberg, who has long stated his desire to enter China as part of his vision to connect the world’s population on Facebook, will spend several days in Beijing this week to meet with advertising partners and “China experts” to learn about the market, the company said.
The world’s most popular social network has been blocked in China since 2009 while the company’s Instagram photo-sharing service was also reportedly blocked in the mainland during the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Entering China is something “we are always interested in and always studying,” said spokeswoman Charlene Chian, who declined to say whether Zuckerberg will hold any formal meetings with government officials.
An IBM spokeswoman said Rometty will not attend the board meeting this week but is due in China in November. Rometty has visited China repeatedly over past 12 months to mend the company’s image amid calls by some Chinese experts and computing rivals to abandon foreign technology on cyber security grounds.
Anheuser-Busch, for its part, has long had extensive business interests in China and owns, among its other properties, Harbin Brewery in northeast China. (Reporting by Gerry Shih)