Popular professional network service LinkedIn is pulling its business out of China. How much business does LinkedIn have in China? Quite a bit.
According to statistics on LinkedIn’s website, China has over 54 million LinkedIn users, which makes it the third-largest market behind the U.S. and India.
However, strict government regulations have prevented LinkedIn from operating in China the way it does in the rest of the world.
“While we’ve found success in helping Chinese members find jobs and economic opportunity, we have not found that same level of success in the more social aspects of sharing and staying informed,” wrote LinkedIn spokesman Mohak Shroff in an Oct. 14 blog post.
Shroff said that the service is also “facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.”
China blocks most social media services
China’s internet is heavily censored and operates behind what's known as the Great Firewall. LinkedIn is one of very few social media services available in China. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and Google are all blocked in China.
LinkedIn agreed to censor Chinese users
When LinkedIn first launched its localized version in China in 2014, it agreed to follow Chinese laws and censor posts made by the country’s citizens, The New York Times reported.
“While we strongly support freedom of expression, we took this approach in order to create value for our members in China and around the world. We also established a clear set of guidelines to follow should we ever need to re-evaluate our localized version of LinkedIn in China,” Shroff said.
LinkedIn got in trouble earlier this year for failing to block objectionable political posts and had to suspend sign-ups in China for 30 days, The New York Times reported.
While China’s government officials condemn LinkedIn for not censoring enough, U.S. lawmakers aren’t happy about the censorship it's doing in the Asian country. U.S. Senator Rick Scott of Florida called LinkedIn’s censorship “an act of submission to Communist China,” after the service took down profiles of several Chinese activists and journalists, The New York Times reported.
LinkedIn will launch InJobs in China.
Although LinkedIn is pulling its social networking service from China, it will continue offering InJobs, a new standalone job application, in the country. InJobs will only showcase job opportunities and won’t include a social feed or the ability to share posts and articles.
“Our new strategy for China is to put our focus on helping China-based professionals find jobs in China, and Chinese companies find quality candidates,” Shroff wrote. “We will also continue to work with Chinese businesses to help them create economic opportunity.”
Microsoft has had its own issues with China
Tech giant Microsoft has owned LinkedIn since 2016 when it bought the professional networking service for $26.2 billion. Microsoft has had its own issues with China and its government. In 2019, the Chinese government blocked Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
In 2020, Microsoft President Brad Smith warned that China was on the verge of a “Tech Cold War” with the U.S., GeekWire reported.
“We will not provide every service to every country in the world. We’ve got to not only stand for the protection of people’s rights, but we have to implement effective protections to safeguard people’s rights,” Smith reportedly said at the U.S.-China Series bilateral relations conference in January 2020.