BEIJING - Business networking site LinkedIn has launched a Chinese version, attempting to tap the huge market while navigating a strict censorship regime that has seen other foreign social media giants banned.
China has the world's largest online community with more than 618 million users. But its so-called Great Firewall blocks any online forums or content deemed sensitive, and has barred access to Facebook and Twitter for several years.
Foreign tech giants are required to abide by strict rules to operate in the country, and unlike the English-language version of LinkedIn, the new site does not currently allow group discussions.
LinkedIn pledged to be limited and open about its compliance. "As a condition for operating in the country, the government of China imposes censorship requirements on Internet platforms," it said in an online statement posted Sunday.
It promised that "government restrictions on content will be implemented only when and to the extent required" and that it "will be transparent about how it conducts business in China".
"LinkedIn strongly supports freedom of expression and fundamentally disagrees with government censorship. At the same time, we also believe that LinkedIn's absence in China would deny Chinese professionals a means to connect with others on our global platform," it said.
The company, which targets working professionals on the job market, said it was targeting more than 140 million Chinese users - nearly half its existing 277 million global members.
Its English-language version has been available in China for more than a decade, where it has attracted four million users, it said.
Foreign tech giants have faced challenges in navigating China's strict Internet controls.
Yahoo elicited criticism in 2005 for allegedly giving the government details leading to the email account of a journalist who was later sentenced to 10 years' jail. Google in 2010 halted its mainland China search engine service after deciding to no longer censor results.
Domestic social media networks thrive in the country but face strict controls. Searches for sensitive terms are routinely blocked and offending posts deleted.
China's Supreme Court ruled in October that Internet users could face three years in jail if "slanderous" information spread online was viewed more than 5,000 times or forwarded more than 500 times.