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LinkedIn, the WTO and why China isolates

LinkedIn has disappeared from China, a fact whose significance depends on whether you are looking at the Great Firewall from the inside out or outside in.

From the outside, it looks like China has withdrawn from the last major international social networking app still available in the country. This means that when people doing business with China need information about its markets and population, the must rely mostly on sources published abroad, and to some extent state media such as the China Global Television Network or CGTN. From inside China, it looks like LinkedIn has left the country. The result will be severed business relations with international customers, suppliers, agents, representatives, media, professional communities and even genuine friendships. But that may not be the worst part.

Chinese journalists, academics, politicians and domestic social media users increasingly complain of the world’s ignorance regarding their country. See for instance this Nikkei article by Brian Wong, who’s right about the information shortage but misses the main reason. Without LinkedIn and other international platforms, the gap between China and the world will widen, even among managers and entrepreneurs genuinely interested in collaboration. It is worsened by the fact that trips in and out of China are near-impossible for international businesspeople right now, and that most multinational firms in China have deliberately replaced resident expats with local managers and experts.

The resulting gap severs countless business relationships and undermines the Chinese government’s globalising ambitions on joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) exactly twenty years ago. Is it all bad news? I have recently written these two articles where I try to balance perspectives from China and abroad, positive and negative. Feel free to comment: I will share the most insightful opinions on my LinkedIn page (without mentioning names), especially from Chinese friends who cannot comment themselves anymore.

My articles are below.

Blurred Vision—How China and the WTO agreed to disagree over trade rules:

Linked Out—Understanding China’s digital divergence:

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