LinkedIn to Expand in China, Goals Are ‘Aligned’ With Government’s

Feb 24, 2014

Weiner: LinkedIn to Expand in China, Goals Are ‘Aligned’ With Government’s

REED ALBERGOTTI

LinkedIn launched a Chinese-language website Tuesday, expanding a push by the work-oriented social network into one of the world’s largest centers of business professionals.

LinkedIn said it hopes the site, which uses simplified Chinese characters, will attract 140 million new professionals, which would boost its user base by 50%. The company did not specify a time frame for adding the new users.

LinkedIn has four million users in China, through an English-language website and a Chinese-language mobile app.

In an interview, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said the company has been working on the launch for nearly two years, including how to deal with China’s censorship of the Internet.

“We’re expecting there will be requests to filter content,” he said. “We are strongly in support of freedom of expression and we are opposed to censorship,” he said, but “that’s going to be necessary for us to achieve the kind of scale that we’d like to be able to deliver to our membership.”

Weiner said that in many ways, LinkedIn’s goal in China is “aligned” with the Chinese government’s efforts to “create economic opportunity for a thriving middle class.”

That stance sets LinkedIn apart from several other U.S. Internet companies, which have restricted activity in China because of censorship.

GoogleGOOG +0.72% in 2010 moved its servers out of mainland China and into to Hong Kong because of concerns about censorship and cyberattacks. YouTube is banned in China, and Gmail can only be used in limited form.

Facebook’s main social network is not accessible in China, though its Instagram service is available there. FacebookFB +3.19% last week said it would acquire WhatsApp, which also is available in China.

MicrosoftMSFT -0.76% on the other hand, operates its search engine there and censors results as requested by the Chinese government.

Weiner said his company recently applied for a license to operate LinkedIn’s web site there, and isn’t sure when it will be approved. He said LinkedIn can offer its service while the license application is pending.

Weiner said he isn’t sure yet how the logistics of censorship will work. “We’re going to have a much better understanding of those requirements in the weeks and months ahead,” he said.

China, which Mr. Weiner said contains one out of every five knowledge workers in the world, has spurred several online professional networks similar to LinkedIn, including Zhaopin and 51job. There are also cultural differences that could make LinkedIn’s goals in China difficult to achieve.

In an interview last fall with The Wall Street Journal, Zhaopin’s chief executive, Evan Guo said LinkedIn hadn’t had much of an impact in China in part because of cultural nuances, like Chinese willingness to talk openly about salaries.

LinkedIn is hoping its Chinese-language site will quickly change the competitive landscape. And LinkedIn’s presence in the West could be attractive for Chinese workers looking for work abroad.

LinkedIn said it also added local features to the site, including the integration of Sina, which owns Weibo, a social-media platform often described as a combination ofTwitterTWTR -0.25% and Facebook. LinkedIn said users will be able to import their Weibo contacts into LinkedIn. It’s also working with Tencent, which owns WeChat, which is popular in China.

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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