Ahead of the launch of a simplified Chinese-language site in February, American social networking service LinkedIn announced its willingness to comply with Beijing’s censorship demands when reaching China-based users. Since the site’s launch, it has attracted about a million new members, and has managed to avoid any government blockages to date. The New York Times looks at LinkedIn’s experience in China so far, noting that strong connections have worked alongside content management compliance and the network’s business orientation to ensure success, and warning of potential risks that could come from the current arrangement:
The secret to LinkedIn’s seeming success? Aside from its willingness to play by Chinese rules on expression, the company has relinquished 7 percent of its local operation to two well-connected Chinese venture capital firms. Having such a relationship with homegrown firms is crucial for foreign web companies seeking to operate in China, experts say.
“The government needs to know who they can call, and as a foreign company you need to know before your site gets shut down so you have a chance to do something about it,” said Duncan Clark, founder of BDA China, a consulting firm that advises foreign companies on China’s tech sector. “That’s worth a lot, to have that channel.”
[…] Although LinkedIn’s strategy has given it access to Chinese speakers, analysts say it poses risks for the company’s reputation and growth strategy.
Like many American tech companies, LinkedIn, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., has promoted itself as dedicated to free-market principles. Too much censorship could cause users to flee.