The ‘Great Firewall’ Of China: LinkedIn Cuts Jobs And Closes Country’s App

In the last six months, several major tech companies have announced significant layoffs in their staff. Now, LinkedIn has joined the ever-growing bunch. The platform has declared that it will axe 716 roles out of a 20,000 workforce and plans to reduce its presence in China by phasing out its local jobs app InCareers which operates in the country, the BBC reports.

The news was announced via an email to all LinkedIn employees from the company’s CEO Ryan Roslansky who stated that, in celebration of the platform’s 20th birthday, decisions had been made over the future of the organisation so that it may survive in a “rapidly changing landscape”.

We are making changes to our Global Business Organization (GBO) and our China strategy that will result in a reduction of roles for 716 employees”, Mr Roslansky announced. 

Mr Roslansky explained in the letter that the decision had been made to streamline the firm’s operations in an evolving market and that this axing of jobs would be part of a gradual phase-out in China, though this did not mean that LinkedIn would not retain a presence in the country. 

A Plan To Bring About A “New Decade For LinkedIn”

Mr Roslansky explained that the decision to axe jobs will be part of a phase-out he has described as having three themes – “reorganising how work gets done, becoming more agile, and aligning our teams for growth.”

“With the market and customer demand fluctuating more, and to serve emerging and growth markets more effectively, we are expanding the use of vendors,” he wrote.

The letter of Mr Roslansky demonstrates that LinkedIn is beginning to embark on a plan which should streamline the firm’s operations in a fluctuating and challenging market in preparation for FY24 – the financial year ending on 30 June 2024.

Phase one of the plan outlined by Mr Roslansky’s letter involves re-organising LinkedIn for “great agility and growth in FY24” to make the platform more integrated, agile and aligned. 

It is due to this initial step that jobs have been axed, though Mr Roslansky has also promised that these changes will result in creating 250 new jobs which employees affected by the cuts in sales, operations and support teams would be eligible to apply for.

The second phase of the plan will be to reassess the company’s presence in China.

After mostly withdrawing from China in 2021 after encountering an overwhelmingly “challenging environment”, the platform has announced that the remaining app InCareers – which exclusively covers the Chinese market – will also be phased out by 9 August. 

A “Rapidly Changing Landscape”

In their letter, the CEO of LinkedIn credited the company’s latest decision to part of its method of navigation through a changing landscape – but what exactly does this mean?

To begin with, there has been a widespread decline in economic growth, particularly in the tech sector, in the last few years. In a post-Covid landscape where Russia’s war on Ukraine is a constant financial drain and inflation is at a high, several companies are struggling to stay afloat. 

In the letter, Mr Roslansky explained that the decision to axe jobs has largely been because the company is “seeing shifts in customer behaviour” which is slowing “revenue growth.”

It appears that LinkedIn has not managed to escape the financial difficulties and cost of living crisis that is being experienced on a global scale. 

The past year has seen multiple major tech firms – including Amazon and Microsoft – lay off significant numbers of staff as companies have tried to find ways to survive in economically challenging times. 

Another factor which is causing our global landscape to change is the development and induction of artificial intelligence (AI).

Lately, it seems all you need to do to witness the latest way AI is changing the world is turn on the news.

AI is completely changing the progression of industries all around the globe and, as it develops and becomes more intelligent, it is becoming obvious that one of the biggest impacts it will have is being able to replace thousands of jobs.

The purpose of LinkedIn is that the platform offers a way for its members to navigate the labour market and their access to economic opportunities and, as Mr Roslansky explained in the letter, “AI is just beginning to accelerate changes in the global economy and labour market”.

In short, as AI changes the labour market, LinkedIn will also need to change and adapt.

It is for these reasons, the letter assures employees, that the company has decided to axe jobs and largely withdraw its presence from China. 

Withdrawing From China: LinkedIn And Beyond

Microsoft already shut down LinkedIn in China in 2021. The BBC cited that the reason for this was that having to comply with the Chinese state was becoming “increasingly challenging” for the company. 

However, despite the exit of Linkedin from the country, the app InCareers – which solely covers the Chinese market – was left to operate. 

Now, the company has announced that InCareers will also be withdrawn from the country in a process that will be complete by 9 August. 

This is significant news as, until now, LinkedIn has been the only major Western social media platform that has been able to operate in China after the country had a crackdown on tech businesses

When it was launched in 2014, the firm had agreed to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government so that it may operate there – something that was met with criticism from US Senator Rick Scott who called this a “gross appeasement and an act of submission to Communist China”, in a letter to Mr Roslansky and Microsoft boss Satya Nadella.

But despite the backlash, LinkedIn continued to operate in China from 2014 until 2021 when it ultimately decided that the country was too challenging an environment to stay in. 

Since 2021 InCareers has still been functioning in China but now Mr Roslansky has announced that this will also be withdrawn due to encountering “fierce competition and a challenging macroeconomic climate.”

Though Mr Roslansky stated in the letter that the company will continue to have a firm presence in the country to help companies operating there hire and train employees outside the country, this decision will mark a significant end to LinkedIn’s working relationship with China. 

This decision is yet another poignant reminder of how isolated China is becoming from the Western world. A majority of apps and websites are already blocked in the country because companies are not willing to follow the government’s internet regulations on data collection and privacy, user safety, and guidelines on content sharing. 

This ‘Great Firewall’ of China only continues to strengthen as suspicions between it and the West grow. As this happens, any Western presence in the country will need to compete with a harsher and more challenging environment. 

Whilst LinkedIn reports that it is reducing its presence in the country to re-organise and streamline itself in a difficult global financial period, perhaps it is simply having too much trouble aligning InCarrers with challenging Chinese state regulations. 

In any case, the decision marks a significant end to any Western social media platforms operating in the increasingly isolated China.