In popular culture, rebels are portrayed as hip and virtuous, misunderstood misfits who burn bright and never compromise. In the 1950s, they were epitomized by bikers and beats, who lived on the margins and flouted convention. These days, rebels are associated with Silicon Valley chic, hooded hackers who are more concerned with breaking boundaries and doing good than turning a profit.
And no one better exemplifies that mythos that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. A Harvard-dropout-turned-Billionaire (with a capital B), Zuckerberg is an inspiration to every gifted (and socially awkward) entrepreneur looking to shake up the establishment. Like all rebels, Zuckerberg succeeded through talent, vision, charisma, resolve, and luck. Over time, revolutionary fervor fades. And rebels eventually become statesmen or sellouts (depending on your persuasion).
Apparently, Zuckerberg is evolving into more than just an icon for the information ago. Just 30 years old, Zuckerberg gave $970 million dollars to philanthropic endeavors in 2013 alone. Like any savvy business owner, he recently founded a lobbying group. Now, he is emerging as a corporate insider who can straddle Millennial ideals with seemingly intractable dilemmas.
COULD APPOINTMENT OPEN CHINA TO FACEBOOK?
That’s the message encoded in Zuckerberg’s appointment to the advisory board of China’s Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management (Tsinghua SEM). According to Reuters, the school is considered “a social network of sorts and an informal meeting ground for Chinese policymakers and international business people seeking closer ties to China.”
It is a tactical move in a larger chess match between Facebook and the People’s Republic of China, which has blocked Facebook to its 618 million internet users. And that’s not surprising in a one-party-rule nation riddled with ethnic divisions, economic inequality, and provincial corruption. Facebook users have been credited with fanning dissent in Egypt and Tunisia that eventually led to regime changes. With China wrestling with Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement’ to reform elections, any vehicle that fosters greater communication between disparate elements could threaten the party’s status quo.
That said, Facebook is playing the long game in China. Reuters notes that Zuckerberg is visiting Beijing this week to learn more about the Chinese market, which could someday be a boon to Facebook. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that a 2014 Topeka Capital Markets memo shows that 30% Facebook usage in China would add $3 to $4 to its share price.
And Facebook is bracing for this possibility. Victor Anthony, managing director and equity analyst at Topeka Capital Markets, tells Bloomberg Businessweek that Facebook is hiring graduates from Chinese universities and engineers from Chinese internet companies to better understand the nation’s languages, cultural mores, and technical requirements.
PART OF LARGER MOVEMENT TO BOOST UNIVERSITY’S PROFILE
Alas, Zuckerberg is only part of a larger effort to bolster the business school’s advisory board. Along with Zuckerberg, Tsinghua SEM also added two renowned executives to its board roster: IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty and Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito. Zuckerberg, Rometty, and Brito are all expected to attend the school’s annual board meeting on Friday according to Reuters.
In addition, five Tsinghua SEM board members are replacing their predecessors, including Mary Barra (General Motors), Michael Corbat (Citgroup), Mark Fields (Ford Motor Company), Geoffrey Garrett (Wharton School), and Doug McMillon (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.).
The Advisory Board of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management consists of a chairman (The Carlyle Group’s David M. Rubenstein), vice chairman, honorary chairman, four honorary board members (including former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson) and 57 board members. And the board reads like who’s who of global business. Along with the executives cited above, the Tsinghua SEM board includes Jamie Dimon (J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.); Tim Cook (Apple); Dominic Barton (McKinsey & Company); Muhtar Kent (The Coca-Cola Company); Indra K. Nooyi (PepsiCo); Stephen A. Schwarzman (Blackstone); Risto K. Siilasmaa (Nokia Corporation); Robert Dudley (British Petroleum); and Lloyd C. Blankfein (The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.). The board also includes deans of top American business schools including, Nitin Nohria (Harvard); Garth Saloner (Stanford); and David Schmittlein (MIT Sloan).