Professional social networking websites in China and “Guanxi”

China has the world’s biggest online population. As a consequence, many Internet businesses are targeting the country. Several internet giants failed while others succeed like Amazon.

Professional social networking websites such as LinkedIn are not very used in China but the usage is growing. The way LinkedIn is built is a reflection of American culture with direct contacts. The website is not blocked contrary to Facebook.

china-SN-tianji

In China people do not want to meet with people they don’t know. Chinese people have a culture based on relationships among family members, colleagues, and close friends. This famous system of personal connections is known as “guanxi” and is reinforced by mutual favors, which plays a vital role in conducting business and navigating a huge country. In China, the boundary between private and professional life in China is not always very clear: for instance, an employee is able to go to karaoke and get drunk with her/his clients. This behavior is less usual in other countries.

French professional social networking website called Viadeo understood the users are very different from Europe and decided to acquire one of the leading Chinese equivalents called Tianji. Even the founder of the French company is located now in China.

The position of Tianji is to offer users a way to maintain “guanxi”. As of July 2013, VALUE2020 estimates that over 16 million users are using the service while Linkedin has only over 3 million users. Quite surprising, Linkedin offers versions in Japanese and in Korean but not yet in Chinese.

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