Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg surprised his audience during a forum at Beijing’s Tsinghua University on Wednesday by carrying out the 30-minute interview almost entirely in Mandarin.
Zuckerberg generally steered the conversation with some rehearsed discussion, and despite prefacing the interview with an acknowledgment of his less-than-perfect Chinese skills, he managed to rally up several rounds of laughter and applause from the audience.
When asked why he studied Chinese, Zuckerberg explained that his wife’s family spoke it and he wanted to be able to communicate with them. He said that while he knows more words in Mandarin than his wife, who also speaks Cantonese, her listening comprehension far exceeds his own.
“Her listening is better than mine. Mine is really awful. One day I asked her why my listening was so bad and she said ‘your listening is bad in English, too.'”
While the Chinese-language interview has been widely perceived as a bid to cozy up to China, where Facebook is currently blocked, his effort has been for the most part applauded.
On Facebook’s plans for China, Zuckerberg said: “We’re already in China. We help Chinese companies grow their customers abroad. They use Facebook ads to find more customers. For example, Lenovo used Facebook ads to sell its new phone. In China I also see economic growth. We admire it. (in English)It’s, it’s…amazing. We want to help other parts of the world connect to China, such as large cities, national parks, (in English) um, yeah.”
You can read more transcriptions from the interview at Quartz.
Here’s the first two minutes of the interview: