LinkedIn is the Latest Setback for Western Companies in China

(Photo Credit: Greg Bulla/Unsplash)
(Photo Credit: Greg Bulla/Unsplash)

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LinkedIn is out of a job in China.

This week, the popular social media platform announced it’s shuttering the Chinese version of its job search app, InCareer, and laying off more than 700 employees worldwide. While LinkedIn is a multi-billion dollar recruitment platform with hundreds of millions of users around the globe, it is facing an increasingly common problem in Silicon Valley: the inability to compete with China’s domestic offerings.

This Town Ain’t Big Enough

InCareer launched in 2021 and had some success, garnering more than 57 million users. But that’s small potatoes compared to Zhaopin’s 320 million users. LinkedIn Learning, Marketing, and Talent will still operate in China, but there could be further cuts in the future.

“Though InCareer experienced some success in the past year thanks to our strong China-based team, it also encountered fierce competition and a challenging macroeconomic climate,” LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky said in a company message to employees.

LinkedIn is far from an outlier. Western imperialists used to control the spheres of influence in China, but that’s no longer the case. With the ever-intensifying China-US trade war, Beijing has grown more and more self-sufficient, relying on homegrown companies and making it incredibly difficult for foreign businesses to succeed. Plenty of corporations that seem too big to fail in America or Europe are doing exactly that in China:

  • Amazon, Yahoo, and Google are among some of the biggest companies that failed to capitalize in China, and clothing retailer Forever 21 is on its third attempt to establish itself in the country. Despite political tensions, strict compliance laws, and tough domestic competition, China remains one of the largest retail markets in the world with more than 1.4 billion people, making it difficult for Western companies to ignore.
  • Problems materialized for Uber as soon as it entered the nation in 2013. The app supported Western credit cards as payment, not third-party wallets like WeChat and Alipay, which most locals preferred. Uber used Google Maps to locate drivers and destinations, but Google Maps was blocked in China in 2010. Plus, Didi, a China-born app that connects riders with established taxi companies, already had a vice-like grip on the rideshare market. Uber pulled out of China in 2016.

Why Can’t We Be Friends? Maybe Beijing and Washington will kiss and make up someday. Last November, presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met at a G20 summit in Indonesia and committed to better communication. And earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said “The top priority is to stabilize Sino-US relations, avoid a downward spiral and prevent any accidents between China and the United States.” However, he blamed a recent ramping up of tensions on the US, likely referring to the balloon fiascos at the start of this year. While sounding diplomatic, he was basically saying “sorry, not sorry.”