Facebook’s accelerator program is set to launch in Taiwan, bringing the island-nation a step closer to becoming “Asia’s Silicon Valley.”

Audrey Tang (唐鳳), a minister without portfolio with responsibility for the digital economy and open government, made the announcement on March 2 through a Facebook post and video, saying FbStart would be “a new link connecting Taiwan and the Silicon Valley.”

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) also posted a tweet announcing the launch.

The minister said the program would not only benefit Taiwan startups, but also bring in more of the “Silicon Valley culture” through more frequent idea exchanges. Tang believes Taiwan should be connecting with a “hacker culture” that is willing to face and solve social issues with passion while sharing experiences and knowledge. Taiwan does not lack the “brains, innovation, passion, environment or business clusters,” according to the minister, but it needs to combine these elements, which FbStart can help achieve.

Launched in 2014, FbStart is a global program designed to help mobile app startups build and grow their products. Members of the program receive free tools, support, training and opportunities to connect with the Facebook team for mentorship. Taiwan’s English-learning app, VoiceTube, was awarded FbStart’s App of the Year Grand Prize in 2016, before the program announced its launch in Taiwan.

As Facebook introduces more services to Taiwan, it is still facing difficulties in China — a market the social media enterprise left in 2009 due to the government’s strict censorship.

Late last year, Facebook was reported to be developing censorship tools to suppress user content in order to help the company break back into China. While it remains unknown when the software will be finished or implemented, critics say the social media network would need to do more to succeed, such as partnering with Chinese companies and investing in the local ecosystem.

Others point out that while China holds an estimated 721 million internet users, the country already has many other social networks — Weibo and WeChat, for example — which would be strong competitors for Facebook.

Facebook is not the only major U.S. tech player struggling in China. Google gave up in 2010 after also attempting to censor content; Netflix bowed out a year after trying to enter the market in 2015; and Uber left after spending US$2 billion, though it struck a deal with local competitor Didi Chuxing.

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Editor: Edward White