“Mark Zuckerberg” and “vacation” aren’t phrases that most people would normally associate.
The Facebook founder is known for working long hours; a two-month “lockdown” over the summer kept developers in the office for extended periods while new products – such as Mail – were created.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that when Mr Zuckerberg takes holiday to China, it isn’t all temple visits and cocktails.
Visiting Beijing with his girlfriend this weekend, Zuck was spotted in the offices of Baidu, China’s largest search engine. He had lunch with Robin Li, Baidu’s chief executive and one of China’s wealthiest men, and toured around the search engine’s offices.
A Baidu spokesperson confirmed the visit, joking on Twitter that rumours the company was buying Facebook were “greatly exaggerated”.
“Robin and Mark have known each other for a while,” he said. “Mark’s interest in China is well known.”
Avid Facebook watchers will know that Mr Zuckerberg has been learning Mandarin ahead of the trip. His tutor was shown on his recent Oprah appearance and he asked his Facebook friends about the best places to visit.
Even though his girlfriend since Harvard, Priscilla Chan, is Chinese, the region is of more than just personal interest to Mr Zuckerberg.
This summer, he told an audience at the Cannes Lions advertising festival that China was a key target for Facebook’s future growth, alluding to “specific things” that the site could do there.
Top of the list, surely, is lifting the current block on Facebook across China. That 1.3bn-person hole in the Facebook network was illustrated by the map released last week showing the blue lines connecting people around the world – leaving China almost entirely in the dark.
It’s almost impossible to know whether Mr Zuckerberg will meet with Chinese officials on this trip. There is a second-degree connection with Tencent, the local social networking giant, which bought a stake in Facebook’s Russian investor, DST, earlier this year. But Tencent could also have the most to lose if Facebook made great strides in China.
So would some sort of relationship with Baidu be one of those “specific things” which might break Facebook through the great firewall? As Google has found, China is a notoriously difficult market for US internet companies to work in – and almost impossible without a local partnership.
A Facebook’s spokesperson would only confirm that he is there on holiday and declined to comment on “any speculation”.
Additional reporting by Kathrin Hille in Beijing