Microsoft is struggling with technical restrictions in China

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BEIJING, China: Microsoft, which is to close its career-oriented social network LinkedIn in China, is one of the few U.S. tech titans to have some success in the country.

The software giant has kept its business alive in China largely by complying with strict local laws despite the widespread censorship of the communist nation.

Here are some key points about the technology and gaming company’s operations in the world’s second largest economy.

A pioneer

Microsoft arrived in China in 1992 and opened its largest research and development center outside of the United States. It employs around 6,200 people in China.

The Windows operating system is used in the vast majority of computers in China – although Beijing has promised in recent years to develop its own operating system. However, the company’s success has a downside as its software is widely used.

The important Chinese market, which is very restrictive for foreign companies, is a drop in the bucket of Microsoft business with almost 1.8 percent of sales, said President Brad Smith at the beginning of last year.

Microsoft’s Bing is one of the few foreign search engines operating in China – although it lags far behind local competitors Baidu and Sogou, who dominate the market.

Bill Gates

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has long embodied a model of success in the eyes of many Chinese and his books are bestsellers in the country.

President Xi Jinping visited the company’s headquarters on a state visit to the United States in 2015, where he met Gates and his wife.

Today the 65-year-old has the reputation of a head of state in Beijing as the head of his humanitarian Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In February 2020, Xi Gates wrote a letter thanking him for his support during the coronavirus epidemic.

Censorship and control

China is censoring all issues that are considered politically sensitive in the name of stability, and internet giants are urged to block unwanted content on the internet.

The American giants Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube as well as Wikipedia and several other foreign media are blocked by China’s “great firewall” because they refuse to comply with Beijing’s strict demands.

Everything wasn’t smooth for the company – Bing was temporarily taken offline in 2019 – which led to speculation that the search engine was blocked by censors.

Microsoft operated its professional LinkedIn network in the country for years, complying with censorship rules through a local joint venture.

However, on Thursday it announced it would close LinkedIn in China, citing an increasingly “challenging operating environment and higher compliance requirements”.

In March, the group announced that it had stopped enrolling new members while it was reviewing compliance with local laws.

LinkedIn has been criticized in the country for scraping the professional accounts of dissidents – who were later alleged to be bogus – and politically sensitive content from its pages.

Skype and Teams – Microsoft’s other two major platforms – will remain available.

Video games

In 2000, Beijing stopped selling all game consoles because of alleged negative effects on the “mental health” of young users, even though they were still illegally available.

After the ban was lifted, Microsoft became the first foreign company to enter the video game market in China with its Xbox One console in 2014.

Also in 2014, the Chinese competition authorities initiated antimonopoly proceedings against Microsoft and its Windows software.

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