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LinkedIn navigates social, economic complexities with launch of Chinese site

LinkedIn launched its business online networking site in China despite the strict censorship policies that govern the nation's online activity.

China has experienced some growing pains over the course of its economic rise. Now the world's second largest economy, the country has emerged as one of the foremost places to do business. Part of this is due to the large potential customer base the country is home to given the fact that it is the world's most populous country.

However, reaching these customers has been somewhat of a challenge in the past. While the Internet plays a major role in the way most companies conduct business, China's is much more insular than the rest of the world. The government has issued strict controls over the activity that users use online.

While marketing through outlets like Facebook, Twitter and other mediums is quite popular in many parts of the world, these sites are actually blocked in China. This has led to the emergence of other applications like Sina Weibo, which is quite popular in China, but less so in countries like the U.S.

The business paradox
This creates a difficult business situation for companies that are looking to expand into the country. Facebook and Twitter as businesses struggle to make an impact in the country because of Chinese firewalls, while other companies like Google use strategies to by pass the censors that are have seen mixed results.

Other businesses, like the Wall Street Journal, which covers topics that the Chinese government considers sensitive, are outright banned in the country. This is not to say that they are inaccessible to the Chinese people – many of the more savvy Internet users in the country know how to bypass the firewalls. Still, these controls create challenges for foreign businesses that do not exist in other countries.

LinkedIn arrives in China
The popular business networking site LinkedIn formally launched in China recently. The site will be based in the Chinese language Lingying and will hope to access the more than 140 million people that are currently working in the country's economy. Previously, users in the country only had access to the English version of the site, which itself had about 4 million members, according to CIO Magazine.

The news source noted that the launch of the site means that the company will need to comply to the online censorship rules that govern the cyberspace in the country. According to LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, the company disagrees with the government policies and that LinkedIn supports free speech despite its decision to move into the country.

"Expanding our presence in China presents a challenge that our company must address directly, clearly and in a manner consistent with our core values. As a condition for operating in the country, the government of China imposes censorship requirements on Internet platforms," he wrote in blog piece on the site. "LinkedIn strongly supports freedom of expression and fundamentally disagrees with government censorship."

Weiner argues that its expansion into the country will be able to help more professional that are working in the area, and strengthen economic relations around the world. There are some potential issues that could arise in the future. Because LinkedIn acts as a news feed for articles, there could be some pieces that the government would deem too sensitive.

Forbes Magazine pointed out that while many of these pieces of content would be in line with what the censors would like to publish, others could cause some controversy, especially among the posts of online activists.

As more people join the website in China, it should be interesting to see how these challenges play out, especially with China's growing economy.

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