For nearly seven years, LinkedIn has been the only major Western social networking platform still active in China. People like Jason Liu, 32, see it as an important tool in improving their careers.
At the end of the year, Liu will no longer have access to the local version of LinkedIn, after Microsoft, which acquired the platform in 2016, said last week that it was citing an “operating environment much more difficult “. will come out.
“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 about my work results, such as my accomplishments and promotions, which are not always appropriate for posting on other platforms like WeChat. ”
Microsoft said LinkedIn will be replaced in China by a job board called InJobs, with no ability to share social media feeds and content.
LinkedIn has more than 54 million users in China, its second largest market after the United States, leaving them without access to a platform for networking with professionals from other countries. There isn’t one in China with the same global reach.
LinkedIn is “irreplaceable,” Liu said. “Many career-related platforms like Leapin or Boss Zippin are purely job boards,” he said.
In order to access LinkedIn’s international site in the future, Liu said they would have to use a VPN (virtual private network) service to bypass the blocks, although doing so would complicate the process.
Stephen Ouyang, who works in Shanghai for a foreign internet company, said he got two jobs through LinkedIn and often uses it to stay in touch with colleagues overseas.
“I am worried if I am still able to reach my contacts who use the international version of LinkedIn, and if it will be difficult to contact the human resources managers (on the new version),” he said. declared.
It is not clear whether the InJobs job board is poised to replace LinkedIn in China; Users expressed mixed feelings for InJobs to retain these features, and LinkedIn did not immediately comment.
Foreign social media platforms in China have long faced challenges, with government regulations requiring censorship of content deemed unacceptable for political or other reasons, with the ability for users to post whatever they want. There are challenges to balance
Some foreign companies, such as Google, have pulled out of China because they were unwilling to comply with these rules.
Sarah Cook said, “The biggest challenge facing Western tech companies in China is the same one facing Chinese tech companies – a new, ever-evolving and ever-evolving crackdown, with new repressions, regulations and pressure to enforce the CCP’s censorship and surveillance policies. arbitrary regulatory environment. Research director for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan at the non-governmental organization Freedom House.
With Chinese President Xi Jinping becoming “more intolerant of dissent and open dialogue now than he was just five years ago,” the sands have changed.
Cook said his Chinese people who are losing their access to the global community are increasingly constrained.
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.
“Mamai is already twice the size of LinkedIn in China, which suggests that LinkedIn is not without a local option,” said Michael Norris, head of search strategy at Agency China, a Shanghai-based consulting firm.
“However, the question remains whether a platform wants to shoulder the burden of moderation that comes with the exchange and discussion of industry news and ideas,” he said.
LinkedIn suspended new user registrations in March as it examined compliance with local laws, after authorities and users were dissatisfied with content regulations.
Last month, the company gained attention when an American journalist, Bethany Allen-Abrahimian, complained that she had censored her user profile in China on its content. This was followed by several more profile censorship of academics and journalists on its Chinese platform.
Not everyone is sad to see LinkedIn disappear.
Zhang Fang, who works at a government-backed institute in Beijing, said LinkedIn does not list job postings for officials or government organizations in China.
“I created a LinkedIn account at university, but I didn’t use it once after I graduated and started working,” he said. “It won’t help my career evolve until I decide one day to join the private sector or a foreign company. ”
Michelle Wu, who works in advertising in Shanghai, said she rarely uses LinkedIn for networking anyway.
“Showing all your contacts is embarrassing,” she said. “Since joining LinkedIn, I’ve added all four people. It was not very helpful to me.