The world is abuzz: "Zuckerberg Wows Beijing Audience With Fluent Mandarin", PCMag (10/22/14). Also on Facebook (of course), and many other sites, including this AP article that called Zuckerberg's pronunciation "far from fluent." See and hear for yourself:
The audience went nuts over almost every syllable. Zuckerberg's Mandarin is not bad. I give him a lot of credit for his resourcefulness in being able to convey significant information with limited resources. Zuckerberg demonstrated a high level of communication skills, if not communicative competence.
Of course, it's possible to be critical of Zuckerberg's Mandarin, as were Gwynn Guilford and Nikhil Sonnad in "The most important things Mark Zuckerberg just said in broken Chinese", Quartz (23/10/14):
Zuckerberg’s aplomb is indeed impressive. And for someone of his Mandarin level, speaking for 30 minutes and fielding questions isn’t easy. But those blown away by Zuck’s Chinese chinwag might want to know that though he’s clearly memorized a lot of relevant words, those were still shoehorned into a distinctly American grammatical order. Pronunciation is also a problem: He showed a plucky disregard for the tones that Mandarin has—one tonal slip-up had him saying that Facebook boasts eleven mobile users instead of 1 billion—and his enunciation was roughly on par with the clarity possible when someone’s stepping on your face.
His tones are indeed a bit wobbly, and his grammar shaky at times, but his pronunciation (vowels and consonants) is generally acceptable, and he has a decent range of vocabulary (actually surprisingly good for someone at his stage of learning the language). I would put him at about 3/4 of the way through intensive first-year Mandarin.
Zuckerberg is not the least bit afraid to speak Mandarin, even in front of a large audience, and actually enjoys holding forth in his newly acquired tongue, though he knows he's not that great at it. " Wǒ de Zhōngwén hěn zāogāo 我的中文很糟糕" ("My Chinese is terrible" [lit., "messy cake"]), he says with a big smile. Never mind, " Wǒ shì yī shì 我试一试" ("I'll give it a try"), and " Wǒ xǐhuān tiǎozhàn 我喜欢挑战" ("I like challenges"). Every line he utters brings the house down.
On a scale of 1-5, I'd put Zuckerberg at about 1 or maybe a tad higher. He's definitely better than Gary Locke, who would rank near 0 in Mandarin and not much better than that in Toisanese / Hoisanese.
Eventually, if he works hard at it and continues to have as much fun speaking Mandarin as he does now, Zuckerberg has the potential to work up to the level of Huntsman or even Rudd. However, no matter how good his Mandarin becomes and how much charm he exudes, Zuckerberg's linguistic prowess won't have any impact on the hard hearts of the bureaucrats who have outlawed Facebook in China, despite the fact that they allow it for their own media organs, such as Global Times and even People's Daily.
"Good good study," Mark, "day day up"!
hǎohǎo xuéxí 好好学习
tiāntiān xiàngshàng 天天向上
"Study hard and make progress every day"