Facebook Inc. is reportedly entering into a partnership with Baidu Inc., China's No. 1 Web search company, to launch a new social-networking website in that country.
The agreement comes after several meetings between Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and his Baidu counterpart, Robin Li, according to a Bloomberg report quoting Sohu.com, a news website in China.
Facebook spokeswoman Debbie Frost declined to comment on the rumored partnership with Baidu but said in an emailed statement that the company is "currently studying and learning about China, as part of evaluating any possible approaches that could benefit our users, developers and advertisers."
Li and Zuckerberg met in December, when the Facebook co-founder visited China. Li, who is 42 and was educated in the U.S., has built Baidu into the leading search engine in China and that nation's second-largest Internet company.
At the time, Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo said that Li and Zuckerberg had "known each other for some time" and that the meeting "does not foretell Facebook's entry into China."
According to Bloomberg, Sohu reported that a new Chinese social-networking site from Facebook and Baidu is underway and will be independent of Facebook's international websites. The Sohu report cited unnamed Baidu employees.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been blocked in China since 2009 because they don't adhere to Chinese Communist Party rules for censoring content.
Despite the censorship rules, Facebook, Twitter, Google and many other companies remain intrigued by China because it is the largest market of Internet users in the world.