Chinese users have mixed feelings about leaving LinkedIn

HONG KONG (AP) – For nearly seven years, LinkedIn was the only major Western social networking platform still operating in China. People like Jason Liu, 32, see it as an important career improvement tool.

At the end of the year, Liu will no longer have access to the localized version of LinkedIn, after Microsoft, which acquired the platform in 2016, said last week it would withdraw, citing an “environment significantly more difficult to operate “.

“It’s a shame,” said Liu, who works in the tech industry in Shenzhen, southern China, and uses the site to network with other professionals online. “LinkedIn has given me a platform to post my work results, such as my accomplishments and promotions, which are not always appropriate for posting on other platforms like WeChat. “

LinkedIn will be replaced in China by a job board called InJobs, with no social media feeds or content sharing capability, Microsoft said.

LinkedIn has more than 54 million users in China, its second largest market after the United States. His departure will leave them without access to a platform for networking with professionals from other countries. There are none in China with a similar global reach.

LinkedIn is “irreplaceable,” Liu said. “Many career-related platforms like Liepin or BOSS Zhipin are pure job boards,” he said.

To access LinkedIn’s international site in the future, Liu said he should use a VPN (virtual private network) service to bypass the blocks, even if it makes the process more complicated.

Stefan Ouyang, who works in Shanghai for a foreign internet company, said he has found two jobs through LinkedIn and often uses it to stay in touch with colleagues abroad.

“I’m worried that I can still reach my contacts who use the international version of LinkedIn, and if it would be difficult to contact HR managers (on the new version),” he said.

It’s not clear whether InJobs will retain these features, and LinkedIn did not immediately comment.

Foreign social media platforms in China have long faced challenges balancing the ability of users to post whatever they want with government rules requiring censorship of content deemed unacceptable for political or other reasons.

Some foreign companies, such as Google, withdrew from China because they were unwilling to abide by these rules.

“The biggest challenge Western tech companies face in China is the same that Chinese tech companies face – an ever-changing and arbitrary regulatory environment with new crackdowns, rules and pressure to enforce the law. CCP politicized censorship and surveillance, ”said researcher Sarah Cook. director for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan at the non-governmental organization Freedom House.

The sands have changed, with Chinese President Xi Jinping becoming “more intolerant of dissent and open conversation now than he was five years ago,” she said.

It is the Chinese who are losing out as their access to the global community becomes more and more restricted, Cook said.

There are Chinese platforms that offer social and content networking features, such as Maimai, but they are not global and are generally preferred by white collar workers in the Chinese tech industry.

“Maimai is already twice the size of LinkedIn in China, which suggests that LinkedIn is not without local substitutes,” said Michael Norris, director of search strategy at AgencyChina, a Shanghai-based consulting firm.

“However, the question remains whether a platform is willing to shoulder the burden of moderation that comes with the exchange and discussion of news and industry views,” he said.

LinkedIn suspended new user registrations in March as it examined its compliance with local laws after being criticized both by authorities and by users unhappy with its content regulations.

Last month, the company drew unfavorable attention when an American journalist, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, complained that she had censored her user profile in China because of its content. This followed several other profile censorship of several other academics and journalists on its Chinese platform.

Not everyone is sad to see LinkedIn disappear.

Zhang Fang, who works at a government-backed institution in Beijing, said LinkedIn does not list job postings for officials or government organizations in China.

“I created a LinkedIn account in college, but after I graduated and started working, I never used it once,” he said. “It doesn’t help my career development, unless one day I decide to join the private sector or a foreign company.

Emchel Wu, who works in advertising in Shanghai, said she rarely uses LinkedIn for networking anyway.

“It’s a little embarrassing to have all of your contacts displayed,” she said. “Since joining LinkedIn, I have added four people. It was not very helpful to me.

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AP researcher Chen Si in Shanghai contributed to this report.


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