LinkedIn, Welcome to China

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?

Sources: Bloomberg, New York Times

Picture: LinkedIn

3 comments

  1. I agree with LinkedIn’s plan to enter the Chinese market because I don’t think that professionals in China should be penalized because of their government’s rules. I think that LinkedIn is a great resource for networking as it leads to numerous job opportunities. Even though certain aspects of the site will be censored, I think that it is better to have the site enter the Chinese market so that other social media sites may have the chance to enter Chinese as well in the future. I agree that allowing LinkedIn to enter the Chinese market definitely does more good than harm because it will allow for professionals in China to connect and network internationally and this could allow future social media sites to enter the Chinese market in the future. In addition, this will also increase LinkedIn’s global growth, increasing the amount of networking opportunities such as between the U.S. and China alone. I don’t think LinkedIn is undermining the freedom of speech issues in China because I think the main reason why LinkedIn is entering China is for growth as they see over a million potential users who will sign up and foster limitless connections.

  2. I think that Linkedin is undermining the freedom of speech issues in China. It is admirable that Linkedin will assist in the free-flow of commerce and job opportunities by allowing people to network more efficiently, but what is not admirable is that Linkedin is willing to compromise basic ideas of freedom of speech in order to enhance their market by exploiting a territory out of the reach of social media giants. Linkedin is being opportunistic at a time when the global internet community should take a united stance and protest what the Chinese government is doing. Had Linkedin approached China and then refused to change its product then perhaps China would have reconsidered its current policy. Although this is all speculative of course and unlikely, it is likely that if companies continued to decline to do business with China then the Chinese government would have no other choice then to submit to principals of human rights.

  3. I think that it is a smart decision for LinkedIn to enter into the Chinese market. Though they have to make a sacrifice on some of their basic principles, it would overall benefit the company. It is a major breakthrough for LinkedIn to become the first professional site to enter the Chinese market. As this article suggests, if LinkedIn does not do it, then some other company will. The global growth of the company would drastically increase, and it would also benefit the people of China. Just because the Chinese government has implemented state censorship rules does not mean that Chinese professionals should be deprived of the means to connect with other professionals on an international level. This issue should not be about LinkedIn limiting their freedom of speech; it should be about the company making a change for the greater good of the global business market. The connections that Chinese professionals would be provided by the site would greatly outweigh the company’s obligations to meet the censorship demands of the government.

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