What is a corporate embassy and how does it compare to a normal one?


The NY Times reports that Facebook opened a "corporate embassy" in China

NY times article

I'm wondering

  • What does a government embassy do?
  • What laws typically apply to it?
    • How does that compare to the power and influence potential if a corporation assumed that role?
    • Specifically, how does that influence compare to the ideals and reality of democracy?


Posted 2019-02-08T13:43:17.340

Reputation: 737

Question was closed 2019-02-09T16:37:20.763



A "corporate embassy" doesn't have anything to do with a "government embassy". While a government embassy represents a government in a foreign country, a corporate embassy represents a corporation in a foreign country.

A corporate embassy does not enjoy any special protection under the Vienna Convention. Legally speaking, it is usually just a branch office of the company. Although in some cases it might officially operate as a branch of a local company, for example if the government does not officially allow that foreign company to operate within their borders (something the Chinese government is very picky about when it comes to some industries). In this case it might enjoy even less legal protection than an official branch office.

In the case of Facebook's "corporate embassy", the declared mission is to be

[a] center, where Chinese who have hardly any experience with the social network can learn about it and figure out how to advertise on it.

Its main purpose is to find Chinese companies which might be interesed in advertising on Facebook. The facebook.com website itself is blocked by the Chinese government. So Facebook is unable to sell their customers any attention of Chinese consumers. But they can sell them the attention of consumers from other countries who might be interested in buying products and services from China.

This is a purely commercial purpose, not a political one.

However, a "corporate embassy" might also have a political purpose in form of serving as a base for political lobbying. If the Chinese government could be persuaded to unblock facebook.com, then that would certainly be something the Facebook shareholders would be extremely excited about. But whether the Facebook office in Shenzhen does seriously pursue this goal is a matter of speculation.


Posted 2019-02-08T13:43:17.340

Reputation: 55 858