Mark Zuckerberg Jogs in Smoggy China and Gets Everyone Talking

The founder of Facebook posted a picture of himself running on Tiananmen Square on a very smoggy day.
Mark Zuckerberg Jogs in Smoggy China and Gets Everyone Talking
Frank Fang

Running in smoggy, unbreathable conditions, check. Posing for a photo at the site of an infamous massacre in Beijing, check. Uploading said photo onto a website that’s currently banned in China, check.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is in China this weekend to meet global CEOs and presidents at the China Development Forum, a Facebook spokeswoman told Wall Street Journal.  Already, he has made an impression on Chinese Internet users and those on Facebook.

“It’s great to be back in Beijing! I kicked off my visit with a run through Tiananmen Square, past the Forbidden City and over to the Temple of Heaven,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post on March 17. A photo of a beaming Zuckerberg in his trademark dark grey shirt, running with five others under a greyish, smog-covered Beijing sky, was attached to the post.

The U.S. Embassy in China, which tweets hourly updates of the air quality in Beijing, indicated that the level of carcinogenic PM2.5 particles was over 300, a “hazardous” level. The U.S. Embassy recommends that people “limit outdoor exertion” when pollution such levels of toxicity.

Air quality in Beijing on March 18. (U.S. Embassy in China)
Air quality in Beijing on March 18. (U.S. Embassy in China)

Chinese Internet users expressed both sympathy and incredulity over Mark Zuckerberg’s morning jaunt.

“You are only hurting yourself,” wrote “Grace Wowo.”

“I feel sorry for his Chinese wife,” wrote “Orchidoo.”

“The smog in Beijing will surely shorten your life by 2 years,” wrote yet another netizen.

“Zuckerberg is the most expensive air purifier ever in history,” joked a netizen from Fujian Province.

Other Chinese netizens felt that Zuckerberg’s run was motivated by business interests.

“Xue Tao”  from Anhui wrote: “Zuckerberg just keeps kowtowing to China, but the Chinese government refuses to unblock Facebook. I feel sorry for him.”

“This is an indication that Zuckerberg will soon join the Chinese Communist Party,” wrote “Nothing MK0529.”

Zuckerberg is well-known for going the extra mile to woo the Chinese regime. When Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his censorship chief Lu Wei visited the U.S. last September, Zuckerberg put on a navy suit and a red tie instead of his customary grey T-shirt or hooded sweater. The Facebook founder gave a formal speech in Mandarin when visiting Tsinghua University, China’s MIT, in October.

Facebook users, particularly those from Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous Chinese city where the social media site isn’t blocked, flooded Zuckerberg’s running photo post with queries about how he managed to circumvent Chinese censorship in Beijing and upload his photo to Facebook.

In China, Internet users resort to virtual private network, or VPN, to “climb over the wall” or circumvent the Great Firewall of China. Internet users also utilize anti-censorship software, such as Freegate, a free software provided by the U.S.-based company Dynamic Internet Technology.

Joshua Wong, a prominent Hong Kong student activist, wrote, “How to update your Facebook in China” on Zuckerberg’s post, and also shared a collection of memes of Zuckerberg being Photoshopped into iconic pictures of China, including the infamous “Tank Man” incident on Tiananmen Square in 1989. On June 4 of that year the Chinese regime ordered troops to fire on unarmed student protesters who had refused to decamp from the square.

Wong also shared a popular meme modified for the occasion:

This is Mark.

Mark uses facebook in China and jogs in their poisonous smog.

Mark risks his life to earn rmb*.

Mark is rich.

Don’t be like Mark.

*rmb, or the acronym of the Chinese Yuan currency.

Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
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