LinkedIn is making its way into China with its Chinese-language version to provide a more localized service for Chinese professionals. As expected, LinkedIn will have to restrict some of its content to comply with state censorship rules as it expands to a country where U.S. social media giants have often clashed with the government. It appears that LinkedIn is willing to compromise its principles of free-expression and capitalism in order to succeed in the expansion. With more than four million members and a population of 1.35 billion people in China, LinkedIn is grasping its opportunity to increase its global growth.
Currently, LinkedIn does not provide Chinese-language users with important features such as the ability to create or join groups, post essays that allow people to have public discussions and form communities. Although LinkedIn has clear opportunities in China, there is an issue of whether LinkedIn is breaking its self-declared commitment to capitalism and free speech. Other companies such as Facebook and Twitter have had no luck in China because of their reluctance to censor. LinkedIn, on the other hand, seems to have the approval of the government. A helping factor is its joint venture with two Chinese tech companies, Sequoia China and China Broadband Capital, that will help connect more than 140 million Chinese professionals.
LinkedIn is making the right move in growing into China, even with censorship. First, if LinkedIn does not make its move in China, someone else will. China is known for its copycat companies that assume the role of absent U.S. social media sites. For example, Sina Corp.’s Weibo, a Chinese website that works like Twitter, has 60.2 million daily users in the country. So far, there is no major professional networking site in China, which leaves the perfect opportunity for LinkedIn.
Secondly, LinkedIn’s service provides more benefit than harm. Although LinkedIn claims that it supports the freedom of expression and disagrees with government censorship, it believes that its absence in China would “deny Chinese professionals a means to connect with others and limit the ability of individual Chinese citizens to pursue and realize the economic opportunities, dreams and rights available to them.”
It seems that LinkedIn is making a sacrifice on its principles to do what it feels is the right choice for its company and for the greater good. Do you agree with LinkedIn’s plan to enter the Chinese market, even though it will have to comply with censorship demands from the government? Is LinkedIn’s entry into China blueprint for other social media sites who want to crack the Chinese market? Is LinkedIn undermining the freedom of speech issues in China?