Facebook and Twitter have been blocked in China since 2009, but Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is hoping to get back in that country with Quest, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Citing people familiar with the matter, the report maintains that Meta has held discussions with several Chinese tech companies, making the most progress with massive entertainment conglomerate Tencent.
The Meta-Tencent talks reportedly came to a head late last year, with Tencent Chairman Pony Ma deciding to proceed with the negotiation first and “see what deals they could reach,” WSJ reports.
Undoubtedly the most complicated bit of the talks would revolve around VR content distribution, and how it’s moderated for Chinese markets. It’s said a portion of Meta’s global offerings could be on offer alongside Tencent’s own apps and services.
In 2009, Facebook and Twitter were banned in China after breaching Beijing’s notoriously strict censorship laws; the ban is thought to have been a direct effort to quel the July 2009 Ürümqi riots that took place in the country’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
More recently, Chinese executives were allegedly worried that Zuckerberg isn’t seen as “friendly to China” due to lingering tentions over prior accusations of technology theft by companies such as ByteDance, maker of TikTok.
A Meta spokesman declined to comment on WSJ’s report. Tencent didn’t respond to a request for comment.
This isn’t the first time Meta VR hardware has made a splash on the Chinese mainland. In 2018, Meta (then Facebook) penned a deal with Xiaomi to release a Chinese variant of Oculus Go, sold by Xiaomi as the ‘Mi VR Standalone’. At the time, this was something of a quid pro quo, as Xiaomi was tasked with manufacturing Oculus Go, giving it exclusive rights to the mainland Chinese market as a result.
No such manufacturing deal is in place with Meta Quest 3, which is coming this Fall for $500. In the end, Meta’s current strategy seems less about getting its subsidized hardware into the country, and more about driving a wedge into the Great Chinese Firewall so it can once again tap into the world’s fastest-growing economy.